Often when I take pictures of critters on the reef, I am trying to show how beautiful the residents are.
However, coral reefs around the world, including those around Koh Rong are up against a lot. Polyps on the reef are being smothered by sediment, which prevents them from feeding through photosynthesis with their symbiotic zooxanthellae and prevents them from feeding with their tentacles.
Reefs already have plenty of other problems to deal with: rising sea temperatures, anchor damage, dynamite fishing, coral harvesting, harvesting of algae-eating fish and diseases. I have seen a number of diseases in the Caribbean, but I was exposed to a new one here, a parasite. The pink on the coral below is part of a trematode (flatworm) life cycle.
There are other parasites going around on the island. Many volunteers, especially on the other island, walk around barefoot in the sand. A fine mixture of feces is present in the sand and in the fecal/sand mixture are worms. I'm not sure if they are threadworms or hookworms, I've only seen the feet of people that get them. You see, the worm burrows into their foot (some evidence suggests that they are stimulated by certain chemicals present on feet) and travels in their blood to their lungs, where they are coughed up and swallowed. Finally, the worms mature in the intestines and begin pumping out eggs that go with the feces into the soil. Then volunteers or other people feel the sand between their toes and start the cycle all over. Pretty cool, eh?
|Beautiful coral polyps off of Koh Rong|
|Scorpionfish sitting on long-dead coral that is covered in algae.|
|Trematode infection on hard coral|