Dynamics of bacterial community development in the reef coral Acropora muricata following experimental antibiotic treatment
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Development of the bacterial community associated with the coral Acropora muricata (=formosa) was monitored using 16S rRNA gene-based techniques and abundance counts over time following experimental modification of the existing microbial community using the antibiotic ciprofloxacin. Abundance of bacteria was reduced >99% by the treatment, resulting in significant changes in bacterial community structure. Following redeployment to their natural environment, some settlement and re-growth of bacteria took place within a few hours, including ribosomal types that were not present, or in low abundance, in the natural microbiota. However, complete recovery of the bacterial community required longer than 96 h, which indicates a relatively slow settlement and growth of bacteria from the water column and suggests that turnover of the natural community is similarly slow. The early developing community was dominated by antibiotic-resistant bacteria from the natural microbiota that survived the treatment and proliferated in the absence of natural competitors, but also included some non-resident ribotypes colonizing from the water column. Almost, all these opportunists were significantly reduced or eliminated within 96 h after treatment, demonstrating a high resilience in the natural bacterial community. Potential pathogens, including a Clostridium sp., inhabited the coral at low abundances, only becoming prevalent when the natural microbiota was disturbed by the treatment. The healthy coral-associated microbiota appears to be strongly controlled by microbial interactions.