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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 273:81-88 (2004)  -  doi:10.3354/meps273081

Tropical Archaea: diversity associated with the surface microlayer of corals

Christina A. Kellogg*

US Geological Survey, 600 4th Street South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701, USA

ABSTRACT: Recent 16S rDNA studies have focused on detecting uncultivated bacteria associated with Caribbean reef corals in an effort to address the ecological roles of coral-associated microbes. Reports of Archaea associated with fishes and marine invertebrates raised the question of whether Archaea might also be part of the coral-associated microbial community. DNA analysis of mucus from 3 reef-building species of Caribbean corals, Montastraea annularis complex, Diploria strigosa and D. labyrinthiformis in the US Virgin Islands yielded 34 groups of archaeal 16S ribotypes (defined at the level of 97% similarity). The majority (75%) was most closely matched by BLAST searches to sequences derived from marine water column samples, whereas the remaining ribotypes were most similar to sequences isolated from anoxic environments (15%) and hydrothermal vents (9%). Unlike previous 16S studies of coral-associated Bacteria, the results do not suggest specific associations between particular archaeal sequences and individual coral species. Marine Archaea (Groups I, II and III) in addition to Thermoplasma-like, methanogen, and marine benthic crenarchaeote phylotypes, were detected in the mucus of tropical corals. The finding of sequences from coral-associated Archaea that are closely related to strict and facultative anaerobes, as well as to uncultivated Archaea from other types of anoxic environments, suggests that anaerobic micro-niches may exist in coral mucus layers. Archaea, with their unique biogeochemical capabilities, broaden the scope of possible interactions between corals and their associated microbial communities.

KEY WORDS: Coral · Archaea · Microbes · Mucus · 16S rDNA · Diversity · Virgin Islands · Caribbean

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