Microbial community composition of deep-sea corals from the Red Sea provides insight into functional adaption to a unique environment

Till Röthig, Lauren Yum, Stephan Georg Kremb, Anna Krystyna Roik, Christian R. Voolstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Microbes associated with deep-sea corals remain poorly studied. The lack of symbiotic algae suggests that associated microbes may play a fundamental role in maintaining a viable coral host via acquisition and recycling of nutrients. Here we employed 16 S rRNA gene sequencing to study bacterial communities of three deep-sea scleractinian corals from the Red Sea, Dendrophyllia sp., Eguchipsammia fistula, and Rhizotrochus typus. We found diverse, species-specific microbiomes, distinct from the surrounding seawater. Microbiomes were comprised of few abundant bacteria, which constituted the majority of sequences (up to 58% depending on the coral species). In addition, we found a high diversity of rare bacteria (taxa at 90% of all bacteria). Interestingly, we identified anaerobic bacteria, potentially providing metabolic functions at low oxygen conditions, as well as bacteria harboring the potential to degrade crude oil components. Considering the presence of oil and gas fields in the Red Sea, these bacteria may unlock this carbon source for the coral host. In conclusion, the prevailing environmental conditions of the deep Red Sea (>20 °C,
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 17 2017

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): FCC/1/1973-18-01
Acknowledgements: We thank the crew of the R/V Aegaeo, especially the ROV and submersible team, and all participating scientists (P. Schmitt-Kopplin, N. Hertkorn, C. Roder). We would like to thank CMOR for assistance and support in field operations. This work was supported from baseline funds to CRV and under the Center Competitive Funding (CCF) Program FCC/1/1973-18-01 by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).


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