Frontiers Media S.A.
Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research
Bacterial communities are fundamental symbionts of corals. However, the process by which bacterial communities are acquired across the life history of corals, particularly in larval and early juvenile stages, is still poorly characterized. Here, transfer of bacteria of the Scleractinian coral Acropora digitifera from adults to spawned egg-sperm bundles was analyzed, as well as acquisition across early developmental stages (larvae and newly settled spat), and 6-month-old juveniles. Larvae were reared under manipulated environmental conditions to determine the source (maternal, seawater, or sediment) of bacteria likely to establish symbiotic relationships with the host using amplicon sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene. Maternal colonies directly transferred bacteria from the families Rhodobacteraceae, Cryomorphaceae, and Endozoicimonaceae to egg-sperm bundles. Furthermore, significant differences in the microbial community structure were identified across generations, yet the structure of the coral bacterial community across early life history stages was not impacted by different environmental rearing conditions. These data indicate that the uptake and structure of bacterial communities is developmentally, rather than environmentally, regulated. Both maternal coral colonies and ubiquitous bacteria found across environmental substrates represent a potential source of symbionts important in establishing the coral microbiome. Uniquely, we report the presence of variation with ontogeny of both the core and resident bacterial communities, supporting the hypothesis that microbial communities are likely to play specific roles within the distinct life history stages of the coral host.
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