Published: 12:18, May 25, 2023 | Updated: 17:48, May 25, 2023
Scientists: Epidemic kills all black sea urchins in Red Sea gulf
By Xinhua

This file photo taken on Aug 11, 2021 shows a view of a Diadema setosum long-spined sea urchin, typically native to Indo-Pacific waters and currently invading the eastern Mediteranean sea, some 17 meters underwater off the shore of Lebanon's northern coastal city of Qalamun. (PHOTO / AFP)

JERUSALEM - Israeli researchers found that within just a few months a deadly epidemic killed the entire black sea urchin population in the Red Sea's Gulf of Aqaba, Tel Aviv University said Wednesday.

The researchers noted that this situation is unprecedented in the entire documented history of the gulf whose shores include Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.

The black sea urchin disappearance threatens to destroy the gulf's coral reefs, as the urchins feed on algae and prevent them from taking over and suffocating the corals that compete with them for sunlight, they warned.

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The researchers predict that the entire population of these sea urchins, in both the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, will shortly get sick and die, as extensive mortality has already been observed off the coasts of Greece and Türkiye.

The research team has sent an urgent report describing the situation to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, calling for establishing a broodstock black sea urchins population so it will be possible to return them to nature when necessary.

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The researchers assume that the source of the deadly epidemic is a pathogenic ciliate parasite that has spread from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.