Coral bacterial community structure responds to environmental change in a host-specific manner

Maren Ziegler, Carsten G. B. Grupstra, Marcelle Muniz Barreto, Martin Eaton, Jaafar BaOmar, Khalid Zubier, Abdulmohsin Al-Sofyani, Adnan J. Turki, Rupert Ormond, Christian R. Voolstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

157 Scopus citations


The global decline of coral reefs heightens the need to understand how corals respond to changing environmental conditions. Corals are metaorganisms, so-called holobionts, and restructuring of the associated bacterial community has been suggested as a means of holobiont adaptation. However, the potential for restructuring of bacterial communities across coral species in different environments has not been systematically investigated. Here we show that bacterial community structure responds in a coral host-specific manner upon cross-transplantation between reef sites with differing levels of anthropogenic impact. The coral Acropora hemprichii harbors a highly flexible microbiome that differs between each level of anthropogenic impact to which the corals had been transplanted. In contrast, the microbiome of the coral Pocillopora verrucosa remains remarkably stable. Interestingly, upon cross-transplantation to unaffected sites, we find that microbiomes become indistinguishable from back-transplanted controls, suggesting the ability of microbiomes to recover. It remains unclear whether differences to associate with bacteria flexibly reflects different holobiont adaptation mechanisms to respond to environmental change.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 12 2019

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Adam Porter (University of Exeter, UK) for assistance with the fieldwork and Craig Michell (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, KAUST) for help with sequencing library preparation. We acknowledge the KAUST Bioscience Core Lab for assistance with MiSeq sequencing. Research reported in this publication was supported by baseline funds to CRV from KAUST and undertaken as part of the Chair’s Program in Coastal Marine Conservation at King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, funded by HRH Prince Khaled bin Sultan. The research was further supported by scholarships under the KAUST visiting student research program (VSRP) to C.G.B.G. and M.M.B.


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