Biodegradation of shells of the black pearl oyster, Pinctada margaritifera var. cumingii, by microborers and sponges of French Polynesia

Research paper by L. Mao Che, T. Le Campion-Alsumard, N. Boury-Esnault, C. Payri, S. Golubic, C. Bézac

Indexed on: 01 Sep '96Published on: 01 Sep '96Published in: Marine Biology


The composition, distribution and infestation sequence of organisms that destroy the commercially valuable shells of the black oyster Pinctada margaritifera var. cumingii Jameson, 1901 were studied. Three ecologically different groups of boring (euendolithic) organisms were identified: (1) phototrophic boring microorganisms (cyanobacteria, Hyella caespitosa, Hyella sp., Mastigocoleus testarum, Plectonema terebrans, and green algae, Phaeophila dendroides, Ostreobium quekettii); (2) heterotrophic boring microorganisms (fungi, Ostracoblabe implexa); (3) filter-feeding boring organisms (sponges, Cliona margaritiferae, C. vastifica). The phototrophic endoliths dominate the external pristmatic region of the shell, whereas the valuable interior nacreous region is attacked mainly by heterotrophs. Boring patterns reflect in part the shape and behaviour of the organisms and in part the structural properties of the shell, and inflict different types of damage. Infestation starts with microbial borers, which prepare the conditions for later invasion by more damaging clionid sponges. The infestation begins always at the apex, the oldest part of the shells, from which the periostracum is often removed by natural attrition or by cleaning procedure. The rate of bioerosion in 1 yr-old hatchery shells is 36 times higher than in natural populations.