Coral Disease Identification

A visual guide to identify Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease was prepared by Andy Bruckner (Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary) in coordination with US. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and U.S. National Parks Service  

The disease cards show photos of healthy corals versus corals with SCTLD. You can print the cards and laminate them for field work. The full set of SCTLD Cards are shown below.

Which Corals Are Affected?

Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) affects >20 species of coral, some more susceptible than others. A description of SCTLD was prepared by the Epidemiology/Response Team of the Florida Disease Advisory Committee. Below is a list of the species by susceptibility. For more detailed information, download the full description.

Highly Susceptible Species:

Early onset (the species first affected during an outbreak), rapid progression, and total mortality ranging from one week for smaller colonies to complete mortality over 1-2 months for larger colonies. Typically, M. meandrites and D. stokesii are the first to become affected at a site, followed by C. natans, and then the others show disease signs shortly thereafter.

Colpophyllia natans (boulder brain coral)

Dendrogyra cylindrus (pillar coral)*

Dichocoenia stokesii (elliptical star coral)

Diploria labyrinthiformis (grooved brain coral)

Eusmilia fastigiata (smooth flower coral)

Meandrina meandrites (maze coral)

Pseudodiploria strigosa (symmetrical brain coral)

Pseudodiploria clivosa (knobby brain coral)

Intermediately Susceptible Species:

Onset of tissue loss typically occurs about a month after onset in highly susceptible species, but lower numbers may also show disease signs before or as those species are affected. Smaller colonies die out over months, and larger colonies may show new lesions continuing with possible mortality occurring over years.

Orbicella annularis (lobed star coral)*

Orbicella faveolata (mountainous star coral)*

Orbicella franksi (boulder star coral)*

Montastraea cavernosa (large-cup star coral)

Solenastrea bournoni (smooth star coral)

Stephanocoenia intersepta (blushing star coral)

Siderastrea siderea (starlet coral)**

Presumed Susceptible but insufficient data to categorize onset

Agaricia agaricites (lettuce coral)

Agaricia spp. (plate/saucer corals)

Mycetophyllia spp. (cactus coral)

Madracis arenterna (pencil coral)

Favia fragum (golfball coral)

Helioseris cucullata (sunray lettuce coral)

Mussa angulosa (spiny flower coral)

Scolymia spp. (disc coral)

Isophyllia spp. (sinuous cactus coral; rough star coral)

Low Susceptible Species: During outbreaks, the following corals are rarely or not affected

Porites astreoides (mustard hill coral)

P. porites (finger coral)

P. divaricata (thin finger coral)

P. furcata (branched finger coral

Acropora palmata (elkhorn coral)*

A. cervicornis (staghorn coral)*

Oculina spp. (bush corals)

Cladocoraarbuscula (tube coral)


  • *Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed species
  • ** S. siderea may show disease signs before highly susceptible species, during outbreaks, and after the outbreak has progressed through a reef system. The presentation of disease may be similar to SCTLD in some but not all cases, and the epidemiology, e.g., the patterns of lesion spread within and among colonies and duration of tissue loss, does not always match those of other species. This raises some uncertainty about inclusion of S. siderea in this case definition.

Slides display a comparison of healthy vs diseased corals.

Use the left and right arrows to page through. Click on image to show full-size

Card 1 Front

Card 1 BACK

Card 2 FRONT

Card 2 BACK

Card 3 Front

Card 3 Back