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Skin microbiome of coral reef fish is highly variable and driven by host phylogeny and diet

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

Article number147
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2018
Number of pages14
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The surface of marine animals is covered by abundant and diversified microbial communities, which have major roles for the health of their host. While such microbiomes have been deeply examined in marine invertebrates such as corals and sponges, the microbiomes living on marine vertebrates have received less attention. Specifically, the diversity of these microbiomes, their variability among species, and their drivers are still mostly unknown, especially among the fish species living on coral reefs that contribute to key ecosystem services while they are increasingly affected by human activities. Here, we investigated these knowledge gaps analyzing the skin microbiome of 138 fish individuals belonging to 44 coral reef fish species living in the same area.

Prokaryotic communities living on the skin of coral reef fishes are highly diverse, with on average more than 600 OTUs per fish, and differ from planktonic microbes. Skin microbiomes varied between fish individual and species, and interspecific differences were slightly coupled to the phylogenetic affiliation of the host and its ecological traits.

These results highlight that coral reef biodiversity is greater than previously appreciated, since the high diversity of macro-organisms supports a highly diversified microbial community. This suggest that beyond the loss of coral reefs-associated macroscopic species, anthropic activities on coral reefs could also lead to a loss of still unexplored host-associated microbial diversity, which urgently needs to be assessed.