Observations of a new source of coral mortality along the Kenyan coast

Timothy R. McClanahan*, Shawn M. McLaughlin, Joanne E. Davy, William H. Wilson, Esther C. Peters, Kathy L. Price, Joseph Maina

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)


In early 2002 coral mortality occurred along 600 km of coastline from Tanzania to Kenya. Astreopora, Echinopora, and Montipora species were severely affected, with Montipora being nearly eliminated from Kenyan reefs. Acropora, Platygyra, Goniopora, and massive Porites were also affected; however, Porites and Goniopora rarely died and often recovered, whereas death for most other species occurred within 2 weeks. In Echinopora and Montipora, a dull ashy tissue color and brittle skeletons characterized the early stages of this event with a mucus layer on the tissue surface in intermediate stages. Mucus and embedded debris then disappeared and surfaces were left covered in a white calcareous dust that sometimes capped a black layer. Astreopora tissues became dull and pale, and seldom produced mucus; eventually the skeleton became bare and white. Either a colorless translucent or brownish thin margin of tissue was visible between living tissue and bare skeleton, depending on species. Scanning electron micrographs of affected corals revealed the presence of fungi. Histology and staining showed that the fungi were mostly in the three genera that died from the syndrome and it may be that fungi invaded and killed corals weakened by another unidentified pathogen.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-479
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Astreopora
  • Coral disease
  • Coral histology
  • Echinopora
  • Marine fungi
  • Montipora

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