Crabs help Great Barrier Reef coral fight disease
Sydney: A particular crab species has been helping Great Barrier Reef coral combat white syndrome that causes disintegration of coral tissue, says a study.
Joseph Pollock, from James Cook University's School of Marine and Tropical Biology and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), has been studying the disease, and its unlikely helper, the "furry coral crab".
Pollock likened it to actor Russell Crow's character in the film "Gladiator" when he has his shoulder wound cleaned by maggots.
"Essentially, the crabs could be slowing the disease by simply feeding on sloughing coral tissue and potentially harmful microbes at the lesion front."
Pollock said another research team at James Cook had originally reported on a link between white syndrome and these crabs.
Initially, it was thought the crabs were to blame for the disease, rather than helping cure it, he said.
"Researchers originally speculated that they may actually cause the disease, since diseased colonies have high numbers of crabs and it is known that these crabs can eat coral tissue," he said, according to a James Cook statement.
"This was the first study to report that they actually slow the disease progression. To my knowledge, this is also the first study to demonstrate that coral-dwelling invertebrates have the potential to slow disease progression on their host," said Pollock.