Changes in microbial diversity associated with two coral species recovering from a stressed state in a public aquarium system
AbstractCoral diseases are a major factor in the decline of coral reefs worldwide, and a large proportion of studies focusing on disease causation use aquaria to control variables that affect disease occurrence and development. Public aquaria can therefore provide an invaluable resource to study the factors contributing to health and disease. In November 2010 the corals within the main display tank at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, London, UK, underwent a severe stress event due to reduced water quality, which resulted in death of a large number of coral colonies. Three separate colonies of two species of reef coral, Seritopora hystrix and Montipora capricornis showing signs of stress and acute tissue loss were removed from the display tank and placed in a research tank with improved water quality. Both coral species showed a significant difference in 16S rRNA gene bacterial diversity be-tween healthy and stressed states (S. hystrix; ANOSIM, R=0.44, p=0.02 and M. capricornis; ANOSIM, R=0.33, p=0.01), and between the stressed state and the recovering corals. After four months the bacterial communities had returned to a similar state to that seen in healthy corals of the same species. The bacterial communities associated with the two coral species were distinct, despite them being reared under identical environmental conditions. Despite the environmental perturbation being identical different visual signs were seen in each species and distinctly different bacterial communities associated with the stressed state occurred within them. Recovery of the visually healthy state was associated with a return of the bacterial community, within two months, to the pre-disturbance state. These observations suggest that coral-associated microbial communities are remarkably resilient and return to a very similar stable state following disturbance.
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