Scientists have identified a microscopic parasite as the cause of the recent die-off of long-spined sea urchins in the Caribbean Sea. The species, Diadema antillarum, saw a mass die-off between 1983 and 1984, leaving only 12% of the original population. The loss of sea urchins allowed algae to take over, which blocked sunlight and led to further deterioration of coral reefs. In 2022, researchers identified the scuticociliate parasite as the cause of the recent die-off and confirmed its ability to make healthy sea urchins sick. While scientists are still searching for solutions to the parasitic problem, the quick identification of the culprit puts them ahead of the game.
Photo Credit: Clem Onojeghuo