Coral growth anomalies (GAs) are tumor-like lesions that are detrimental to colony fitness and are commonly associated with high human population density, yet little is known about the disease pathology or calcification behavior. SEM imagery, skeletal trace elements and boron isotopes (δ11B) have been combined as a novel approach to study coral disease. Low Mg/Ca, and high U/Ca, Mo/Ca, and V/Ca potentially suggest a decreased abundance of “centers of calcification” and nitrogen-fixation in GAs. Estimates of carbonate system parameters from δ11B and B/Ca measurements indicate reduced pH (−0.05 units) and [CO32−] within GA calcifying fluid. We theorize GAs re-allocate resources away from internal pH upregulation to sustain elevated tissue growth, resulting in a porous and fragile skeleton. Our findings show that dystrophic calcification processes could explain structural differences seen in GA skeletons and highlight the use of skeletal geochemistry to shed light on disease pathophysiology in corals.
- Element cycles