Sea Urchin Pandemic Threatens Coral Reefs Worldwide

TEL AVIV – Scientists in Israel have raised the alarm about a sea urchin pandemic that originated in the Red Sea and is now spreading to the Indian Ocean, posing a threat to coral reefs globally. The pandemic has already decimated sea urchin populations in the Red Sea, the Arabian peninsula, and Reunion Island, with experts warning that it could reach the Coral Triangle in southeast Asia and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Researchers have identified the pathogen responsible for the mass die-offs through molecular analysis and have observed the rapid and devastating impact it has on sea urchin colonies. The affected species of sea urchins play a crucial role in maintaining the health of coral reefs by controlling algae growth. Without these “lawn mowers” of the reefs, algae cover has been expanding, depriving coral of essential sunlight for growth.

The spread of the pandemic has been swift and relentless, with colonies being wiped out within a matter of days. Scientists are still unsure of how to contain the disease but are exploring the possibility of establishing isolated populations of unaffected sea urchins for future reintroduction efforts.

Collaboration among scientists across the region is essential to monitor the spread of the pandemic and gather crucial data on its impact. Continuous sampling of environmental DNA is being conducted to track the interactions of sea life with their surroundings and to better understand the progression of the disease.

The urgent need for coordinated efforts to address this crisis is evident, as the loss of sea urchins could have far-reaching consequences for the delicate balance of marine ecosystems worldwide.

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Keywords: **Pandemic, Sea urchin, Coral reefs, Marine, Environment, Nature, Red sea, Science**