MEPS - Vol. 322 - Feature article

Antibiotic properties of surface mucus defend corals against invasive microbes; this defense is weakened under temperature stress. Photos: Kiho Kim (coral), Shawn Polson (inset)

Ritchie KB


Regulation of microbial populations by coral surface mucus and mucus-associated bacteria


Mucus from the elkhorn coral Acropora palmata has antibiotic properties that play a role in organizing the microbial communities on the coral surface. This antibiotic activity is reduced during periods of increased sea surface temperature, suggesting a seasonal variability in the protective qualities of the mucus and an increased susceptibility to bleaching and disease during summer. In addition, mucus from healthy A. palmata harbors bacteria that also produce antibiotics. During a summer bleaching event, beneficial coral bacteria were replaced by Vibrio spp., and this resulted in a loss of antibiotic producing bacteria on the coral surface.


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