Pillar coral (Dendrogyra cylindrus) is a rare Caribbean coral with only one species in its genus. In 2014, it was listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act due to catastrophic population declines. By 2020, the estimated number of surviving genotypes has declined from 181 to 51 with the remaining population assumed to be reproductively extinct and at high risk for regional extinction.
Recent losses of Dendrogyra cylindrus from the wild have been due largely to the panzootic of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD). In 2016, a multi-institutional collaboration began rescuing the remaining genotypes from the wild and placing them into ex situ and in situ nurseries. NOAA NOS NCCOS Coral Health and Disease Program (Charleston SC) conducted exploratory treatments to recover and rehabilitate D. cylindrus genotypes. This NOAA Technical Memorandum chronicles over four years (2016-2019) and seven collection and rescue events, experimental treatments, and rehabilitation of Dendrogyra cylindrus genotypes afflicted with SCTLD from Florida reefs. Using a pragmatic approach, we dealt with the sickest of the sick specimens that were collected to remove as many representative genotypes as possible from harm's way. With each new group of diseased D. cylindrus coming in for treatment, our knowledge, skill, and success in rehabilitation increased. These combined efforts resulted in our facility receiving 208 fragments; 176 specimens of the original fragments were successfully treated with no further sign of disease and represented at least 76 distinct genotypes. These small remnants of once tall stately pillars now reside in ex situ facilities awaiting a time when they can contribute to restoring this species to the wild, through growth and fragmentation and/or ex situ sexual reproduction.
Citation: Miller, C.V., L.A. May, Z.J. Moffitt, and C.M. Woodley. Exploratory treatments for stony coral tissue loss disease: pillar coral (Dendrogyra cylindrus). NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 245 and CRCP 37. Charleston, SC. 78 pp. https://doi.org/10.25923/d632-jc82