Marine Biology

, 166:45 | Cite as

Modes of coral disease transmission: how do diseases spread between individuals and among populations?

  • Amanda ShoreEmail author
  • Jamie M. Caldwell
Review, concept, and synthesis


Coral disease is considered an important factor in the recent decline of coral reefs worldwide; yet transmission, a critical factor for understanding disease ecology, identifying at-risk individuals and populations, and developing management options, is understudied in coral disease research. Here, we review techniques for investigating coral disease transmission using laboratory and field experiments, and modeling analyzes, and highlight how these approaches can improve our understanding of disease ecology. We summarize current knowledge about three hypothesized modes of coral disease transmission: direct contact, water borne, and vector-borne transmission. We also discuss the key challenge in studying disease transmission, which is unknown or complex etiology. Finally, we suggest potential management strategies that may result from a better understanding of coral disease transmission.


Transmission Coral disease Disease ecology Marine disease Vector borne Water borne 



The authors would like to acknowledge and thank Dr. Colleen Burge, Dr. Deborah Gochfeld, and two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments and suggestions, which has greatly improved the final manuscript


A. Shore was supported by a Grant from the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (0010509) and by the Rice Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Program. J. Caldwell was supported by the Stanford University Woods Institute for the Environment, Environmental Ventures Program, and by a grant through the NASA Ecological Forecasting Program (NNX17AI21G).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

A. Shore declares no conflict of interest. J. M. Caldwell declares no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not any contain studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

227_2019_3490_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (118 kb)
Supplementary file1 (PDF 117 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiosciencesRice UniversityHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Marine Biotechnology, Institute of Marine and Environmental TechnologyUniversity of Maryland Baltimore CountyBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, School of Ocean and Earth Science and TechnologyUniversity of Hawaii At ManoaKaneoheUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiologyStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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