Marine Science Faculty Publications

Investigating Coral Reef Degradation at Alina's Reef in the Florida Keys: Cellular Physiology of White Grunt (Haemulon plumieri) as a Biological Indicator

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biomarker, cellular diagnostics, coral reefs, florida keys, white grunt

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Coral reefs in the Florida Keys are severely degraded with a reported 38% loss between 1996 and 2000, yet the causes of these devastating declines remain largely unknown. Our long-term studies in the Upper Keys and Biscayne National Park indicate acute stress events affecting physiological condition in species representing different trophic levels in the reef community, one of which was white grunt (Haemulon plumieri; Lacépède, 1801). We initiated a preliminary investigation describing cellular physiological stress effects and the possible causes of these stress events using cellular diagnostic profiling coupled with a cursory body-load contaminant chemistry analysis. The cellular biomarker profiles from fish taken from Alina's Reef indicated a toxic response profile that was suggestive of a suicide reaction of the cytochrome P450 2-class as a result of an interaction with a xenobiotic that adversely affects heme metabolism. Elevated levels of damaged porphyrin products were also found in fish from Alina's Reef. Liver loads of anthropogenic contaminants (e.g., pesticides, PCBs) were measured and provided further evidence for possible causative agents. Evaluation and synthesis of each type of data were used to establish a biological effect, develop a mechanism of pathogenicity, and build a profile for possible causative agent(s).

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Environmental Forensics, v. 7, issue 1, p. 15-32