Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Cause of sea fan death in the West Indies


A fungus from the genus Aspergillus is the probable agent of epizootic infections that have caused mass mortality of sea fan corals (Gorgonia ventalina) over the past 15 years1,2. Here we show that four strains of the fungus involved in these infections are members of the species Aspergillus sydowii, a common saprobe (an organism that lives on decaying matter) that is found in both terrestrial and marine environments. Isolates of A. sydowii taken from diseased sea fans caused new infections of sea fans in inoculation experiments, whereas isolates taken from elsewhere did not.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1
Figure 2: Parsimony phylogenetic analysis of sequences from the 5′ non-translated region of the trpC gene.


  1. 1

    Nagelkerken, I. et al. in Proc. 8th Int. Coral Reef Symp. Vol. 1 (eds Lessios, H. A. &Macintyre, I. G.) 679-682 (STRI, Panama City, 1997).

  2. 2

    Smith, G. et al. Nature 383, 487 (1996).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Klich, M. A. &Pitt, J. I. ALaboratory Guide to Common Aspergillus Species and their Teleomorphs (CSIRO Division of Food Processing, North Ryde, Australia, 1988).

  4. 4

    Raper, K. B. &Fennell, D. I. The Genus Aspergillus (Williams &Wilkins, Baltimore, 1965).

  5. 5

    Geiser, D. M., Pitt, J. I. & Taylor, J. W. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 95, 388–393 (1998).

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Domsch, K. H., Gams, W. &Anderson, T.-H. Compendium of the Soil Fungi Vol. 1 (Academic, London, 1980).

  7. 7

    Roth, F. J. et al. Can. J. Bot. 42, 375–383 (1964).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Geiser, D., Taylor, J., Ritchie, K. et al. Cause of sea fan death in the West Indies. Nature 394, 137–138 (1998).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing