Researchers from the James Cook University in northern Queensland initially blamed furry coral crabs for the damage on the Great Barrier Reef, but they are now considering tapping the crabs to heal the corals from the white syndrome disease.
The damages were found at reefs near Cooktown, Cairns, Townsville and Rockhampton.
"It turns out that these little crabs move potentially from nearby coral colonies, onto diseased colonies and they slow down the disease by three times," ABC quoted Joseph Pollock, a researcher at the university's School of Marine and Tropical Biology..
He explained that the crabs may actually be helping the coral by eating tissues that fall off and potentially any microscopic critters right at the disease lesion front.
"It could be these crabs are giving it (the coral) a bit of a chance to stay alive until potentially those water temperatures could come down or the coral could put up a defence to stop the disease progression," he added
.The crab's scientific name is Cymo melanodactylus. It is a species of small decapods crustacean from the Xanthidae family and found in the Indo-Pacific Ocean, living in crevices and on the surface of corals.
It appears to be covered with short fur and with large pale blue, stalked eyes, a spiny carapace with a shallow groove down the middle.