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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 426:29-40 (2011)  -  DOI:

Spatial heterogeneity of bacterial communities in the mucus of Montastraea annularis

Camille A. Daniels1, Amy Zeifman1, Kathy Heym2,5, Kim B. Ritchie3, Craig A. Watson2, Ilze Berzins4,6, Mya Breitbart1,*

1University of South Florida, College of Marine Science, 140 7th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701, USA
2University of Florida/IFAS Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory, 1408 24th Street SE, Ruskin, Florida 33570, USA
3Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota , Florida 34236, USA
4The Florida Aquarium, 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa, Florida 33602, USA
5Present address: Sea World Orlando, 7007 Sea World Drive, Orlando, Florida 32821, USA
6Present address:
John G. Shedd Aquarium, 1200 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60605, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Corals are known to contain a diverse microbiota; however, few studies have explicitly addressed the spatial variability of bacterial communities across individual, healthy coral colonies. This study applied culture-based and culture-independent methods to examine the spatial heterogeneity in bacterial communities in the mucus of 3 healthy Montastraea annularis colonies from Looe Key Reef, Florida Keys. Automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis (ARISA) results showed significant variability (up to 61% dissimilarity) in the composition of the total bacterial community at different locations only centimeters apart on individual coral colonies. Abundances of culturable Vibrio spp. determined by TCBS plating were highly variable across individual coral colonies, differing by up to 100-fold between different locations on the same colony. ARISA profiles indicated that intracolony variation rivaled intercolony differences in the composition of the culturable Vibrio community (i.e. types of culturable Vibrio spp. and their relative abundances). The high degree of spatial heterogeneity in coral-associated bacteria observed across individual colonies has implications for coral microbiology studies and coral restoration projects.

KEY WORDS: Community profiling · ARISA · Bacteria · Coral · Spatial heterogeneity · Vibrio

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Cite this article as: Daniels CA, Zeifman A, Heym K, Ritchie KB, Watson CA, Berzins I, Breitbart M (2011) Spatial heterogeneity of bacterial communities in the mucus of Montastraea annularis. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 426:29-40.

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