Bette L Willis

Bette L Willis
James Cook University · School of Marine & Tropical Biology

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285
Publications
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Publications

Publications (285)
Article
Full-text available
The discovery of multi-species synchronous spawning of scleractinian corals on the Great Barrier Reef in the 1980s stimulated an extraordinary effort to document spawning times in other parts of the globe. Unfortunately, most of these data remain unpublished which limits our understanding of regional and global reproductive patterns. The Coral Spaw...
Article
Full-text available
Abstract Corals are dependent upon lipids as energy reserves to mount a metabolic response to biotic and abiotic challenges. This study profiled lipids, fatty acids, and microbial communities of healthy and white syndrome (WS) diseased colonies of Acropora hyacinthus sampled from reefs in Western Australia, the Great Barrier Reef, and Palmyra Atoll...
Article
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While links between heat stress and coral bleaching are clear and predictive tools for bleaching risk are well advanced, links between heat stress and outbreaks of coral diseases are less well understood. In this study, the effects of accumulated heat stress on tagged colonies of tabular Acropora were monitored over the 2017 austral summer at Beave...
Article
Full-text available
Black band disease (BBD) is a virulent coral disease, and although its microbiology has been studied extensively, the aetiology of BBD remains poorly understood. Here we used aquaria and field experiments to determine if feeding on BBD lesions by corallivorous fishes influences disease progression rates. Although selective predation on lesions was...
Article
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Infectious diseases not regulated by host density, such as vector-borne diseases, have the potential to drive population declines and extinctions. Here we test the vector potential of the snail Drupella sp. and butterflyfish Chaetodon plebeius for two coral diseases, black band (BBD) and brown band (BrB) disease. Drupella transmitted BrB to healthy...
Preprint
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Adult organisms may “prime” their offspring for environmental change through a number of genetic and non-genetic mechanisms, termed parental effects. Some coral species can alter their thermal tolerance by shuffling the proportions of Symbiodinium types within their endosymbiotic communities, but it is unclear if this plasticity can be transferred...
Preprint
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The majority of corals acquire their photo-endosymbiont Symbiodinium from environmental sources anew each generation. Despite the critical role that environmental availability of Symbiodinium plays in the potential for corals to acclimate and adapt to changing environments, little is known about the diversity of free-living Symbiodinium communities...
Preprint
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Determining the extent to which Symbiodinium communities in corals are inherited versus environmentally-acquired is fundamental to understanding coral resilience and to predicting coral responses to stressors like warming oceans that disrupt this critical endosymbiosis. We examined the fidelity with which Symbiodinium communities in the brooding co...
Article
During 2015-2016, record temperatures triggered a pan-tropical episode of coral bleaching, the third global-scale event since mass bleaching was first documented in the 1980s. Here we examine how and why the severity of recurrent major bleaching events has varied at multiple scales, using aerial and underwater surveys of Australian reefs combined w...
Article
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Extremes in seasonal environmental conditions can significantly impact the health and physiological functioning of reef corals, underscoring the need for knowledge of seasonally specific baselines from which to monitor and forecast impending stress. Increases above summertime means in seawater temperature , sunlight intensity, turbidity, or sedimen...
Article
Importance: Over the past decade, a virulent group of coral diseases known as white syndromes have impacted coral reefs throughout Indian and Pacific Oceans. This manuscript provides the first detailed case study of white syndromes to combine disease ecology, high throughput microbial community profiling and cellular-scale host-microbe visualizati...
Data
This file contains supplementary Methods S1, Table S1, and Figure S1–Figure S2. Methods S1, Coral genera classified by growth form and Bayesian model parameters. Table S1, Mean prevalence of individual coral diseases and other health indicators. Figure S1, Non-metric multidimensional scaling (nMDS) plot of coral assemblages. Figure S2, Prevalence o...
Preprint
Full-text available
Seawater temperature anomalies associated with warming climate have been linked to increases in coral disease outbreaks that have contributed to coral reef declines globally. However, little is known about how seasonal scale variations in environmental factors influence disease dynamics at the level of individual coral colonies. In this study, we a...
Preprint
Full-text available
Seawater temperature anomalies associated with warming climate have been linked to increases in coral disease outbreaks that have contributed to coral reef declines globally. However, little is known about how seasonal scale variations in environmental factors influence disease dynamics at the level of individual coral colonies. In this study, we a...
Data
1. Supplementary Material KMQ_final: This word file includes 3 tables and the figure legend for supplementary figure 1.
Article
Predicted increases in sea-surface temperatures due to climate change are likely to alter the physiology of marine organisms and ultimately influence the distribution and abundance of their populations. The consequences of increased temperatures for marine species, including decreased survival and altered rates of development, growth and settlement...
Article
Full-text available
Bacterial communities associated with healthy corals produce antimicrobial compounds that inhibit the colonization and growth of invasive microbes and potential pathogens. To date, however, bacteria-derived antimicrobial molecules have not been identified in reef-building corals. Here, we report the isolation of an antimicrobial compound produced b...
Preprint
Full-text available
Bacterial communities associated with healthy corals produce antimicrobial compounds that inhibit the colonization and growth of invasive microbes and potential pathogens. To date, however, bacteria-derived antimicrobial molecules have not been identified in reef-building corals. Here we report the isolation of an antimicrobial compound produced by...
Preprint
Full-text available
Bacterial communities associated with healthy corals produce antimicrobial compounds that inhibit the colonization and growth of invasive microbes and potential pathogens. To date, however, bacteria-derived antimicrobial molecules have not been identified in reef-building corals. Here we report the isolation of an antimicrobial compound produced by...
Article
Full-text available
Marine protected areas can prevent over-exploitation, but their effect on marine diseases is less clear. We examined how marine reserves can reduce diseases affecting reef-building corals following acute and chronic disturbances. One year after a severe tropical cyclone, corals inside reserves had sevenfold lower levels of disease than those in non...
Article
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To forecast marine disease outbreaks as oceans warm requires new environmental surveillance tools. We describe an iterative process for developing these tools that combines research, development and deployment for suitable systems. The first step is to identify candidate host–pathogen systems. The 24 candidate systems we identified include sponges,...
Article
Full-text available
Diazotrophic bacteria are instrumental in generating biologically usable forms of nitrogen by converting abundant dinitrogen gas (N2) into available forms, such as ammonium. Although nitrogen is crucial for coral growth, direct observation of associations between diazotrophs and corals has previously been elusive. We applied fluorescence in situ hy...
Article
Parks and protected areas have been instrumental in reducing anthropogenic sources of damage in terrestrial and aquatic environments. Pathogen invasion often succeeds physical wounding and injury, yet links between the reduction of damage and the moderation of disease have not been assessed. Here, we examine the utility of no-take marine reserves a...
Article
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Disease is increasingly recognized as a threat to coral reef ecosystems, particularly in the light of increasing anthropogenic disturbances that disrupt important symbiotic partnerships within the coral holobiont. White syndromes (WSs) are a prevalent group of coral diseases in the Indo-Pacific region that have been the focus of an increasing numbe...
Article
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Brown band (BrB) disease manifests on corals as a ciliate-dominated lesion that typically progresses rapidly causing extensive mortality, but it is unclear whether the dominant ciliate Porpostoma guamense is a primary or an opportunistic pathogen, the latter taking advantage of compromised coral tissue or depressed host resistance. In this study, m...
Article
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Early establishment of coral-microbial symbioses is fundamental to the fitness of corals, but comparatively little is known about the onset and succession of bacterial communities in their early life history stages. In this study, bacterial associates of the coral Acropora millepora were characterized throughout the first year of life, from larvae...
Article
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In recent decades, coral reef ecosystems have declined to the extent that reefs are now threatened globally. While many water quality parameters have been proposed to contribute to reef declines, little evidence exists conclusively linking specific water quality parameters with increased disease prevalence in situ. Here we report evidence from in s...
Article
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Disease outbreaks are implicated in coral reef degradation worldwide, but currently little is known about the role of viruses in coral health. In this study, transmission electron microscopy (TEM) was employed in parallel with flow cytometry to compare viral communities associated with visually healthy and white syndrome (WS)-infected tissues of th...
Article
Full-text available
Brown band (BrB) disease manifests on corals as a ciliate-dominated lesion that typically progresses rapidly causing extensive mortality, but it is unclear whether the dominant ciliate Porpostoma guamense is a primary or an opportunistic pathogen, the latter taking advantage of compromised coral tissue or depressed host resistance. In this study, m...
Article
Full-text available
The capacity of reef-building corals to associate with environmentally-appropriate types of endosymbionts from the dinoflagellate genus Symbiodinium contributes significantly to their success at local scales. Additionally, some corals are able to acclimatize to environmental perturbations by shuffling the relative proportions of different Symbiodin...
Article
Full-text available
Infectious diseases are common in marine environments, but the effects of a changing climate on marine pathogens are not well understood. Here, we focus on reviewing current knowledge about how the climate drives hostpathogen interactions and infectious disease outbreaks. Climate-related impacts on marine diseases are being documented in corals, sh...
Article
Full-text available
Diazotrophic bacteria potentially play an important functional role in supplying fixed nitrogen to the coral holobiont, but the value of such a partnership depends on the stability of the association. Here we evaluate the composition of diazotroph assemblages associated with the coral Acropora millepora, throughout four seasons and at two reefs, an...
Article
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Globally, reef-building corals are the most prolific producers of dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP), a central molecule in the marine sulphur cycle and precursor of the climate-active gas dimethylsulphide. At present, DMSP production by corals is attributed entirely to their algal endosymbiont, Symbiodinium. Combining chemical, genomic and molecul...
Article
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Coral disease is a major threat to the resilience of coral reefs; thus, understanding linkages between disease outbreaks and disturbances predicted to increase with climate change is becoming increasingly important. Coral disease surveys conducted twice yearly between 2008 and 2011 at a turbid inshore reef in the central Great Barrier Reef spanned...
Article
Black band disease (BBD) is a microbial consortium that creates anoxic, sulfide-rich microenvironments and kills underlying coral tissues as it rapidly migrates across colonies. Although bacterial communities associated with BBD have been studied extensively, the presence and roles of archaea are unexplored. Using amplicon-pyrosequencing of 16S rib...
Article
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Understanding patterns in a species' occupancy and abundance across multiple scales is important for management purposes, particularly for protecting threatened species. Here, we develop a new quantitative, multiscale model of occupancy and abundance that characterizes seven types of rarity and one of commonness in high-diversity communities of sta...
Article
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Cyclone Yasi, one of the most severe tropical storms on record, crossed the central Great Barrier Reef (GBR) in February 2011, bringing wind speeds of up to 285 km hr(-1) and wave heights of at least 10 m, and causing massive destruction to exposed reefs in the Palm Island Group. Following the cyclone, mean (± S.E.) hard coral cover ranged from jus...
Article
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The dinoflagellate photosymbiont Symbiodinium plays a fundamental role in defining the physiological tolerances of coral holobionts, but little is known about the dynamics of these endosymbiotic populations on coral reefs. Sparse data indicate that Symbiodinium populations show limited spatial connectivity; however, no studies have investigated tem...
Article
Full-text available
Brown band disease (BrB) is an increasingly prevalent coral disease in the Indo-Pacific, but although the macroscopic signs of BrB have been associated with the ciliate Philaster guamensis, many aspects of its ecology remain unknown, particularly how the disease is transmitted among coral colonies. The aim of this study was to assess biotic factors...
Article
Lecithotrophic, or non-feeding, marine invertebrate larvae generally have shorter pelagic larval durations (PLDs) than planktotrophic larvae. However, non-feeding larvae of scleractinian corals have PLDs far exceeding those of feeding larvae of other organisms and predictions of PLD based on energy reserves and metabolic rates, raising questions ab...
Article
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Knowledge of the degree to which corals undergo physiological acclimatization or genetic adaptation in response to changes in their thermal environment is crucial to the success of coral reef conservation strategies. The potential of corals to acclimatize to temperatures exceeding historical thermal regimes was investigated by reciprocal transplant...
Article
Reef building corals are among the largest producers of dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP), a sulfur molecule synthesized by their endosymbiotic dinoflagellates in the genus Symbiodinium. DMSP is potentially involved in important physiological and ecological processes in corals, but investigating the functional role of this molecule requires rapid a...
Article
Demographic connectivity requires both the dispersal of individuals between sub-populations, and their subsequent contribution to population dynamics. For planktonic, non-feeding marine larvae, the capacity to delay settlement enables greater dispersal distances, but the energetic cost of delayed settlement has been shown to adversely impact post-s...
Article
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Predation on coral tissue by the crab Cymo melanodactylus has been hypothesized to contribute to tissue loss caused by white syndromes (WS) in acroporid corals. Here, we demonstrate that transplanting C. melanodactylus crabs from WS-infected Acropora colonies onto healthy coral fragments in controlled aquarium experiments does not result in WS tran...
Article
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Deposition of aragonite skeletons by scleractinian corals typically starts immediately after larval settlement and metamorphosis. However, following the November 2011 coral mass spawning event, we observed that many of our experimental Acropora millepora recruits still lacked a skeleton at 30 days following spawning. Colonies of A. millepora collec...
Article
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The effects of temperature and light on the breakdown of the coral-Symbiodinium symbiosis are well documented but current understanding of their roles during initial uptake and establishment of symbiosis is limited. In this study, we investigate how temperature and light affect the uptake of the algal symbionts, ITS1 types C1 and D, by juveniles of...
Article
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Coral diseases are taking an increasing toll on coral reef structure and biodiversity and are important indicators of declining health in the oceans. We implemented standardized coral disease surveys to pinpoint hotspots of coral disease, reveal vulnerable coral families and test hypotheses about climate drivers from 39 locations worldwide. We anal...
Article
Full-text available
Coral reefs are threatened by increasing levels of coral disease and the functional loss of obligate algal symbionts (bleaching). Levels of immunity relate directly to susceptibility to these threats; however, our understanding of fundamental aspects of coral immunology is lacking. We show that three melanin-synthesis pathway components (mono-pheno...