AME 76:149-161 (2015)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/ame01775

Coral-associated viruses and bacteria in the Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

The Thu Pham1, Van Thuoc Chu1, Thi Viet Ha Bui2, Thanh Thuy Nguyen3, Quang Huy Tran3, Thi Ngoc Mai Cung4, Corinne Bouvier5, Justine Brune5, Sebastien Villeger5, Thierry Bouvier5, Yvan Bettarel5,*

1Institute of Marine Environment and Resources (IMER), Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST), Haiphong, Vietnam
2Hanoi University of Science, Vietnam National University (VNU), Hanoi, Vietnam
3National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE), Hanoi, Vietnam
4Institute of Biotechnology (IBT), VAST, Hanoi, Vietnam
5UMR MARBEC, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), CNRS, Université Montpellier, France
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Viruses inhabiting the surface mucus layer of scleractinian corals have received little ecological attention so far. Yet they have recently been shown to be highly abundant and could even play a pivotal role in coral health. A fundamental aspect that remains unresolved is whether their abundance and diversity change with the trophic state of their environment. The present study examined the variability in the abundance of viral and bacterial epibionts on 13 coral species collected from 2 different sites in the Ha Long Bay, Vietnam: one station heavily affected by anthropogenic activity (Cat Ba Island) and one protected offshore station (Long Chau Island). In general, viral abundance was significantly higher in coral mucus (mean = 10.6 ± 2.0 × 107 virus-like particles ml–1) than in the surrounding water (5.2 ± 1.3 × 107 virus-like particles ml–1). Concomitantly, the abundance and community diversity (inferred from phylogenetic and morphological analyses) of their mucosal bacterial hosts strongly differed from their planktonic counterparts. Surprisingly, despite large differences in water quality and nutrient concentrations between Cat Ba and Long Chau, there were no significant differences in the concentrations of epibiotic viruses and bacteria measured in the only 2 coral species (i.e. Pavona decussata and Lobophyllia flabelliformis) that were common at both sites. The ability of corals to shed bacteria to compensate for their fast growth in nutrient-rich mucus is questioned here.


KEY WORDS: Viruses · Coral-associated bacteria · Mucus · Symbionts · Coral reefs


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Cite this article as: Pham TT, Chu VT, Bui TVH, Nguyen TT and others (2015) Coral-associated viruses and bacteria in the Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. Aquat Microb Ecol 76:149-161. https://doi.org/10.3354/ame01775

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