Small sea snail damaging world's coral reefs

May 28, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Victoria University research has found that a small sea snail may be causing significant damage to coral reefs in the Pacific, even more so than climate change or coral bleaching.

Dr Jeff Shima, a Senior Lecturer in and Director of Victoria’s Coastal Ecology Laboratory, New Zealand, has studied the worm snail Dendropoma maximum in the field at Moorea, French Polynesia.

"Our research looks at the effects of this often overlooked ‘zoological oddity’. It’s incredible that such a small snail can have such a significant impact.

"The adverse effects of this largely unstudied snail on coral reefs rival and exceed those of coral bleaching, and human impacts. This small snail may be having a catastrophic impact."

The worm reduced skeletal growth of certain corals by up to 81 per cent and halved their survival rate. Susceptibility to damage varied among .

Similar patterns of devastation have been recorded in other areas, such as the Red Sea. The snail is common in the Pacific and seems to be becoming more widespread.

Dr Shima says the loss of coral is significant because the reefs provide food and shelter for an incredible diversity of sea life.

" also support the economies of many Pacific island nations through fishing and tourism as well as being essential to the island’s own stability, protecting against storms, tsunamis and rising sea levels.

"This is a significant issue for us and our Pacific neighbours, many of which rely on aid from New Zealand yet only a small fraction of reef species, such as this snail, have been studied," says Dr Shima.

The research has recently been published in the prestigious international journal Biology Letters by the Royal Society, the national academy of science of the UK and the Commonwealth which celebrates its 350th anniversary this year.

Explore further: Stanford researchers rethink 'natural' habitat for wildlife

Provided by Victoria University

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study finds seasonal seas save corals with 'tough love'

Nov 29, 2007

Finally, some good news about the prospects of coral reefs in the age of climate change. According to a new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society, corals may actually survive rising ocean temperatures ...

Microbes could be the key to coral death

Apr 11, 2008

Coral reefs could be dying out because of changes to the microbes that live in them just as much as from the direct rise in temperature caused by global warming.

Will coral reefs disappear?

Feb 22, 2010

This is the title of an upcoming symposium at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual conference in San Diego, California. And it's a topic that should not be taken lightly.

Recommended for you

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Apr 18, 2014

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Apr 18, 2014

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.