Microbial consortia increase thermal tolerance of corals

Justine A. Gilbert, Ross Hill, Martina A. Doblin, Peter J. Ralph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study examined the response of a coral holobiont to thermal stress when the bacterial community was treated with antibiotics. Colonies of Pocillopora damicornis were exposed to broad and narrow-spectrum antibiotics targeting coral-associated α and γ-Proteobacteria. Corals were gradually heated from the control temperature of 26 to 31 °C, and measurements were made of host, zooxanthellar and microbial condition. Antibiotics artificially reduced the abundance and activity of bacteria, but had minimal effect on zooxanthellae photosynthetic efficiency or host tissue protein content. Heated corals without antibiotics showed significant declines in F V/F M, typical of thermal stress. However, heated corals treated with antibiotics showed severe tissue loss in addition to a decline in F V/F M. This study demonstrated that a disruption to the microbial consortium diminished the resilience of the holobiont. Corals exposed to antibiotics under control temperature did not bleach, suggesting that temperature may be an important factor influencing the activity, diversity and ecological function of the holobiont bacterial community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1763-1771
Number of pages9
JournalMarine Biology
Volume159
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes

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