Owing to the decrease of reef organisms in general, it has become essential to study populations that are prone to marine diseases, with the purpose of developing accurate survivorship predictions and in turn alarm on triggers and drivers of disease outbreaks. In this study, we quantified the octocorals of Gorgona island, Tropical Eastern Pacific (Colombia), during 2007 and 2009 documenting a mass mortality occurred during 2008. We recorded 16 octocoral species with densities that ranged between 2 and 30 colonies m-2. Most abundant octocorals were Leptogorgia alba and Pacifigorgia spp. (Gorgoniidae: Octocorallia). During 2009 we noticed a mass mortality involving Pacifigorgia irene, P. adamsi, P. rubicunda andP. eximia, with a reduction of 70% of the colonies between 12 and 20 m in water depth. Around 5% of seafans during 2007 had an epizootic disease similar to aspergillosis, which seems the cause of the mass octocoral mortality. This disease outbreak observed in Gorgona island, and other nearby areas of the Colombian Pacific during 2007-2010, corresponded to extended periods of anomalous elevated seawater surface temperatures and thermal anomalies during the upwelling season of 2008. Constant monitoring of seawater temperatures and octocoral populations are urgently needed in this area to understand the nature of this new disease outbreak. Rev. Biol. Trop. 62 (Suppl. 1): 209-219. Epub 2014 February 01.

Keywords: Octocorals, aspergillosis, Pacifigorgia, Tropical Eastern Pacific, rising seawater temperatures, marine diseases, mass mortality, Gorgona Island, Colombia