A coral pathogen was isolated from the diseased tissue of Pocillopora damicornis in Zanzibar. The pathogenic bacterium, referred to as Vibrio coralyticus YB, was classified as a member of the genus Vibrio. Based on its 16S rDNA sequence, V. coralyticus is probably a new species. In controlled aquaria experiments at 26-29°C, inoculation of pure cultures of V. coralyticus YB either into the seawater or by direct contact onto the coral caused tissue lysis of P. damicornis fragments. At 29°C, lysis began as small white spots after 3-5 days, rapidly spreading so that by 2 weeks the entire tissue was destroyed, leaving only the intact bare skeleton. When an infected diseased coral was placed in direct contact with a healthy one, the healthy coral lysed in 2-4 days, further indicating that the disease was contagious. Inoculation with as few as 30 bacteria ml-1 was sufficient to infect and lyse corals. Seawater temperature was a critical variable for the infectious process: infection and lysis occurred rapidly at 27-29°C, slowly at 26°C and was not observed at 25°C. The data suggest that the presence of V. coralyticus YB, even in low numbers, in seawater surrounding a coral reef will lead to tissue destruction of P. damicornis, when seawater temperatures rise.