Host Species and Body Site Explain the Variation in the Microbiota Associated to Wild Sympatric Mediterranean Teleost Fishes


Microorganisms are an important component in shaping the evolution of hosts and as such, the study of bacterial communities with molecular techniques is shedding light on the complexity of symbioses between bacteria and vertebrates. Teleost fish are a heterogeneous group that live in a wide variety of habitats, and thus a good model group to investigate symbiotic interactions and their influence on host biology and ecology. Here we describe the microbiota of thirteen teleostean species sharing the same environment in the Mediterranean Sea and compare bacterial communities among different species and body sites (external mucus, skin, gills, and intestine). Our results show that Proteobacteria is the dominant phylum present in fish and water. However, the prevalence of other bacterial taxa differs between fish and the surrounding water. Significant differences in bacterial diversity are observed among fish species and body sites, with higher diversity found in the external mucus. No effect of sampling time nor species individual was found. The identification of indicator bacterial taxa further supports that each body site harbors its own characteristic bacterial community. These results improve current knowledge and understanding of symbiotic relationships among bacteria and their fish hosts in the wild since the majority of previous studies focused on captive individuals.

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Fish sampling was performed by the “Service des Moyens à la Mer (FR3724) de l’Observatoire Océanologique de Banyuls/Mer (OOB)”. We are grateful to the BIO2MAR platform ( for providing technical help and support and access to instrumentation.

Funding Information

This work was funded by Sorbonne Université, programme Emergence 2016 (project SU-16-R-EMR-22-MICROFISH), which included a post-doctoral contract for MRR.

Author information

Correspondence to M. Ruiz-Rodríguez.

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Ethical Statement

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the use of animals were followed. The Observatoire Océanologique de Banyuls sur Mer holds the authorization from the “Direction interrégionale de la Mer Méditerrannée” for fishing and handling wild Mediterranean teleosts. Wild fish were caught (see above for details) by competent persons on the research vessel “Nereis II” and in accordance with the European Union Regulations concerning the protection and welfare of experimental animals (European directive 91/492/CCE).

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Ruiz-Rodríguez, M., Scheifler, M., Sanchez-Brosseau, S. et al. Host Species and Body Site Explain the Variation in the Microbiota Associated to Wild Sympatric Mediterranean Teleost Fishes. Microb Ecol (2020) doi:10.1007/s00248-020-01484-y

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  • Bacteria
  • Metabarcoding
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • Microbiota
  • Teleost fish