Sunday Nature Ramble

This week our ramble takes us to the sea. Coral reefs, in particular.

A pest previously found only in aquariums and reef projects has migrated to the wild. How? Did man have a hand in the migration of this nasty?

Nasty aquarium pest found in the wild

The flatworms take small bites out of the coral tissue and lay eggs directly onto its surface (Source: Marc Levenson)

A coral-eating flatworm that is a notorious pest in aquariums has for the first time been found in the wild – on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

The find is reported today in the journal PLOS ONE.

The flatworm, Amakusaplana acroporae, is a voracious predator of Acropora coral, and is capable of killing off entire colonies of the reef-forming coral.

“They take small bites of the coral tissue and also lay eggs directly onto the coral and when those eggs hatch then you’ve got 20 new worms that are also eating the coral,” says marine biologist Jessica Stella, of James Cook University in Townsville.

She says for the past 10 years the worm has plagued aquariums and reef restoration projects but has never before been found in the wild.

The worm is only about a centimetre long and almost transparent, which could be one reason why it’s been so hard to find, says Stella.

“They are so well camouflaged against their coral host,” she says. “When it’s laying on a coral host you can hardly see it.”

But now, with the help of Dr Kate Rawlinson of Dalhousie University in Canada, Stella has found the worm on Acropora coral taken from Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

Source: ABC Science Read more

Amakusaplana acroporae

Image:ReefNews

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3 responses to this post.

  1. I find it hard to believe that the parasite evolved in or from aquariums; it must have existed in the wild before.

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