Predation by the crown-of-thorns seastar (CoTS; Acanthaster sp.) is a pervasive stressor attributing to the decline of coral reefs. These outbreaks are suggested to be linked to eutrophy-driven recruitment pulses, where increased nutrients enhance larval success. CoTS larvae, however, are tolerant of oligotrophic conditions typical of tropical ecosystems and outbreaks occur in regions isolated from eutrophy, highlighting the resilience of these larvae to oligotrophic conditions. Here, we test the hypothesis that CoTS larvae associate with bacterial communities that are dynamic across an oligotrophic–eutrophic continuum and are specific to each feeding regime. Our analysis of the CoTS larval microbiome suggests that CoTS larvae associate with a bacterial community distinct from the environmental microbiota and that this community experiences a community-level shift in response to differential feeding that is maintained over development. Symbioses with a diverse and dynamic, and a potentially phototrophic, bacterial community may contribute to resilience of CoTS larvae that enable the success of CoTS and, perhaps, other tropical marine larvae in oligotrophic seas.
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We thank Anne Hoggett, Lyle Vail, Morgan Pratchett, Vanessa Messmer, Ciemon Caballes, Shawna Foo, and Richard Chi for their assistance with specimen collection, laboratory cultures, sampling, and imaging.
T.J.C was supported by an NSF Graduate Research fellowship; A.M.R. was supported by Human Frontier Science Program Award RGY0079/2016; KW was supported by a PhD scholarship from the University of Sydney; M.B. was supported by an Ian Potter Foundation Grant from Lizard Island Research Station, a facility of the Australian Museum; and D.A.J. and K.L. were supported by NSF DEB1036416 and the Department of Bioinformatics and Genomics in the College of Computing and Informatics at UNC Charlotte.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.
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Carrier, T.J., Wolfe, K., Lopez, K. et al. Diet-induced shifts in the crown-of-thorns (Acanthaster sp.) larval microbiome. Mar Biol 165, 157 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-018-3416-x
- CoTS larvae
- Gut microbiota
- Great Barrier Reef