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Temporal Variation in the Microbiome of Tropical and Temperate Octocorals

Abstract

Bacterial members of the coral holobiont play an important role in determining coral fitness. However, most knowledge of the coral microbiome has come from reef-building scleractinian corals, with far less known about the nature and importance of the microbiome of octocorals (subclass Octocorallia), which contribute significantly to reef biodiversity and functional complexity. We examined the diversity and structure of the bacterial component of octocoral microbiomes over summer and winter, with a focus on two temperate (Erythropodium hicksoni, Capnella gaboensis; Sydney Harbour) and two tropical (Sinularia sp., Sarcophyton sp.; Heron Island) species common to reefs in eastern Australia. Bacterial communities associated with these octocorals were also compared to common temperate (Plesiastrea versipora) and tropical (Acropora aspera) hard corals from the same reefs. Using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing, bacterial diversity was found to be heterogeneous among octocorals, but we observed changes in composition between summer and winter for some species (C. gaboensis and Sinularia sp.), but not for others (E. hicksoni and Sarcophyton sp.). Bacterial community structure differed significantly between all octocoral species within both the temperate and tropical environments. However, on a seasonal basis, those differences were less pronounced. The microbiomes of C. gaboensis and Sinularia sp. were dominated by bacteria belonging to the genus Endozoicomonas, which were a key conserved feature of their core microbiomes. In contrast to previous studies, our analysis revealed that Endozoicomonas phylotypes are shared across different octocoral species, inhabiting different environments. Together, our data demonstrates that octocorals harbour a broad diversity of bacterial partners, some of which comprise ‘core microbiomes’ that potentially impart important functional roles to their hosts.

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Data availability

Methods’ Raw data files in FASTQ format were deposited into the NCBI Sequence Read Archive (SRA) and can be accessed under the bioproject number PRJNA656354.

Code Availability

Not applicable.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the staff at Heron Island Research Station for their technical support, and Mathieu Pernice, Audrey Commault and Samantha Goyen for their assistance with sampling. We are grateful for the reviewers’ thorough and constructive feedback which has helped improve the quality of this manuscript. Coral samples were collected under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park permit G17/39149.1 issued to Emma Camp/David Suggett, and Department of Primary Industries permit P15/0042-1.1 issued to Samantha Goyen/David Suggett. Trent Haydon is supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship.

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Haydon, T.D., Suggett, D.J., Siboni, N. et al. Temporal Variation in the Microbiome of Tropical and Temperate Octocorals. Microb Ecol (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00248-021-01823-7

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Keywords

  • Octocoral
  • Endozoicomonas
  • Microbiome
  • 16S rRNA gene
  • Soft coral