Diseased corals in Jamaica

After having been exposed to a severe bleaching event in the fall of 2017, the prevalence of sick and dying corals on north Jamaican reefs, has increased dramatically. Pseudodiploria strigosa, Diploria labyrinthiformis, Colpophyllia natans, Dendrogyra cylindrus , Montastraea cavernosa , as well as Orbicella , Mycetophyllia , and Agaricia are prominent among the taxa displaying signs of a disease that resembles white plague.

See photos labelled 1-5 below of corals with disease signs resembling white plague in late April-May, 2018.  Click to enlarge each photo.

1 – Diplora labyrinthiformis (L), Pseudodiploria strigosa (R) in 10 m, Dairy Bull fore-reef terrace, April 2018.

2 – Dendrogyra cylindrus, Dairy Bull fore-reef terrace, 9 m.

3 – Montastraea cavernosa, Rio Bueno fore-reef wall, 12 m.

4 – Orbicella annularis, CARICOMP site, Discovery Bay, fore-reef terrace, 10 m.

5 – Mycetophyllia aliciae, Pinnacle 1, Discovery Bay, 35 m, fore-reef slope.


Concern has been raised that the identities of these corals overlap with species affected by an outbreak of a similar-looking disease that, since 2014, has caused extensive losses along the Florida reef tract (W. Precht et al. 2016, Lunz et al. 2018).

Moreover, some ailing Siderastrea siderea photographed in transects during the Fall 2017 bleaching at a 10-m site near Discovery Bay have “blotchy” lesions (B. Charpentier, unpubl.) resembling those of the novel “Siderastrea white blotch syndrome” that was first noted in Florida in 2015 (L. Precht et al. (2018). When examined in April-May 2018, some of these corals had died while others were very sick, this disease had spread to previously unaffected colonies in the area and has been seen at other sites between Alligator Head and Rio Bueno.

See photos below 1-3 as examples of diseased Siderastrea siderea at 10 m depth on shallow fore-reef terrace reefs with signs that resemble Siderastrea white blotch syndrome in late April-May, 2018.

Note the large populations of Diadema antillarum, and abundant crustose coralline algae which are common at these depths in this area.  Click to enlarge each photo.

1 – The Bull, early stage of disease.

2 – . Dairy Bull, late stage of disease.

3 – Dairy Bull, note the three-spot damselfish (Stegastes planifrons) and the abundant fresh bite marks on this coral; could damselfish act as vectors spreading this disease?








Orbicella annularis with yellow band disease. CARICOMP site, Discovery Bay, fore-reef terrace, 10 m, May 2018.

At the same time, the incidence of the yellow band disease in Orbicella annularis, which had already risen between 2015 and 2017 in the area around Discovery Bay has further increased since Fall 2017, especially among colonies that have not recovered from bleaching and remain pale.


Thanks particularly to B. Charpentier, D. Henry and D. Anderson for information about diseased Jamaican corals, and to B. Charpentier, E. Burge and P. Dustan for photos.




Lunz K, J Landsberg, Y Kiru and V Brinkhuis. 2017. Investigation of the coral disease outbreak affecting scleractinian coral species along the Florida Reef Tract. Final Report for Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. vi+14 pp.

Precht L, S Thanner, E Peters, K Rogers, L Kaufman, B Aronson, R Aronson, W Precht. 2018. Emerging Coral Disease Threatens Ailing Caribbean Reefs. ECO Mag March 2018 https://www.ecomagazine.com/news/science/emerging-coral-disease-threatens-ailing-caribbean-reefs

Precht WF, BE Gintert, ML Robbart, R Fura R, R van Woesik. 2016. Unprecedented Disease-Related Coral Mortality in Southeastern Florida. Sci. Rep. 6:31374; doi: 10.1038/srep31374.