In 2013, researchers off the coast of Christmas Island discovered something shocking. The coral reef they’d visited only five years earlier was skeletal and dead, its tissue destroyed and bone-like. The cause of the deterioration was a disease called white syndrome, and even now, in 2019, scientists are still baffled.
While white syndrome has many of the qualities of coral bleaching — draining the life and color from a coral reef — the disease is far more deadly. Instead of stressing the coral until it expels its algae, white syndrome kills a reef completely, leaving nothing behind but a bare structure of what it once was.
What is white syndrome, and how can researchers hope to address the problem? Let’s dive into the strange and mysterious depths of this growing phenomenon.