The coral ecosphere: a unique coral reef habitat that fosters coral-microbial interactions
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Scleractinian corals are bathed in a sea of planktonic and particle‐associated microorganisms. The metabolic products of corals influence the growth and composition of microorganisms, but interactions between corals and seawater microorganisms are underexplored. We conducted a field‐based survey to compare the biomass, diversity, composition, and functional capacity of microorganisms in small‐volume seawater samples collected adjacent to five coral species with seawater collected > 1 m away from the reef substrate on the same reefs. Seawater collected close to corals generally harbored copiotrophic‐type bacteria and its bacterial and archaeal composition was influenced by coral species as well as the local reef environment. Trends in picoplankton abundances were variable and either increased or decreased away from coral colonies based on coral species and picoplankton functional group. Genes characteristic of surface‐attached and potentially virulent microbial lifestyles were enriched in near‐coral seawater compared to reef seawater. There was a prominent association between the coral Porites astreoides and the coral symbiont Endozoicomonas, suggesting recruitment and/or shedding of these cells into the surrounding seawater. This evidence extends our understanding of potential species‐specific and reef site‐influenced microbial interactions that occur between corals and microorganisms within this near‐coral seawater environment that we propose to call the “coral ecosphere.” Microbial interactions that occur within the coral ecosphere could influence recruitment of coral‐associated microorganisms and facilitate the transfer of coral metabolites into the microbial food web, thus fostering reef biogeochemical cycling and a linkage between corals and the water column.
© The Author(s), 2019. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Weber, L., Gonzalez-Diaz, P., Armenteros, M., & Apprill, A. The coral ecosphere: a unique coral reef habitat that fosters coral-microbial interactions. Limnology and Oceanography, 64(6), (2019): 2373-2388, doi: 10.1002/lno.11190.
Suggested CitationWeber, L., Gonzalez-Diaz, P., Armenteros, M., & Apprill, A. (2019). The coral ecosphere: a unique coral reef habitat that fosters coral-microbial interactions. Limnology and Oceanography, 64(6), 2373-2388.
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