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Transgenerational Effects on the Coral Pocillopora damicornis Microbiome Under Ocean Acidification


Reef-building corals are inhabited by functionally diverse microorganisms which play important roles in coral health and persistence in the Anthropocene. However, our understanding of the complex associations within coral holobionts is largely limited, particularly transgenerational exposure to environmental stress, like ocean acidification. Here we investigated the microbiome development of an ecologically important coral Pocillopora damicornis following transgenerational exposure to moderate and high pCO2 (partial pressure of CO2) levels, using amplicon sequencing and analysis. Our results showed that the Symbiodiniaceae community structures in adult and juvenile had similar patterns, all of which were dominated by Durusdinium spp., previously known as clade D. Conversely, prokaryotic communities varied between adults and juveniles, possibly driven by the effect of host development. Surprisingly, there were no significant changes in both Symbiodiniaceae and prokaryotic communities with different pCO2 treatments, which was independent of the life history stage. This study shows that ocean acidification has no significant effect on P. damicornis microbiome, and warrants further research to test whether transgenerational acclimation exists in coral holobiont to projected future climate change.

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We thank the Administration of Sanya Coral Reef National Nature Reserve for providing sampling permits. Tao Yuan, Shize Zhang, and Lei Jiang are gratefully acknowledged for their experimental assistance. We are also particularly grateful to the staffs of Tropical Marine Biological Research Station in Hainan, Chinese Academy of Sciences.


This work was supported by grant from the National Natural Science Foundation of China [41876192], the Hong Kong Branch of Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Guangzhou) (SMSEGLS20C01), Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Guangzhou) (GML2019ZD0409), and the University Grants Committee (JLFS/M-602/18) of HKSAR.

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Correspondence to Guowei Zhou or Hui Huang.

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Zhou, G., Tong, H., Cai, L. et al. Transgenerational Effects on the Coral Pocillopora damicornis Microbiome Under Ocean Acidification. Microb Ecol 82, 572–580 (2021).

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  • Coral holobiont
  • Microbial communities
  • Ocean acidification