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  • 1
    Publication Date: 2019-02-01
    Description: Microbes associated with deep-sea corals remain poorly studied. The lack of symbiotic algae suggests that associated microbes may play a fundamental role in maintaining a viable coral host via acquisition and recycling of nutrients. Here we employed 16 S rRNA gene sequencing to study bacterial communities of three deep-sea scleractinian corals from the Red Sea, Dendrophyllia sp., Eguchipsammia fistula, and Rhizotrochus typus. We found diverse, species-specific microbiomes, distinct from the surrounding seawater. Microbiomes were comprised of few abundant bacteria, which constituted the majority of sequences (up to 58% depending on the coral species). In addition, we found a high diversity of rare bacteria (taxa at 〈1% abundance comprised 〉90% of all bacteria). Interestingly, we identified anaerobic bacteria, potentially providing metabolic functions at low oxygen conditions, as well as bacteria harboring the potential to degrade crude oil components. Considering the presence of oil and gas fields in the Red Sea, these bacteria may unlock this carbon source for the coral host. In conclusion, the prevailing environmental conditions of the deep Red Sea (〉20 °C, 〈2 mg oxygen L−1) may require distinct functional adaptations, and our data suggest that bacterial communities may contribute to coral functioning in this challenging environment.
    Type: Article , PeerReviewed
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  • 2
    Publication Date: 2019-02-04
    Description: From protists to humans, all animals and plants are inhabited by microbial organisms. There is an increasing appreciation that these resident microbes influence the fitness of their plant and animal hosts, ultimately forming a metaorganism consisting of a uni- or multicellular host and a community of associated microorganisms. Research on host–microbe interactions has become an emerging cross-disciplinary field. In both vertebrates and invertebrates a complex microbiome confers immunological, metabolic and behavioural benefits; conversely, its disturbance can contribute to the development of disease states. However, the molecular and cellular mechanisms controlling the interactions within a metaorganism are poorly understood and many key interactions between the associated organisms remain unknown. In this perspective article, we outline some of the issues in interspecies interactions and in particular address the question of how metaorganisms react and adapt to inputs from extreme environments such as deserts, the intertidal zone, oligothrophic seas, and hydrothermal vents
    Type: Article , PeerReviewed
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  • 3
    Publication Date: 2019-02-01
    Description: The structural framework provided by corals is crucial for reef ecosystem function and services, but high seawater temperatures can be detrimental to the calcification capacity of reef-building organisms. The Red Sea is very warm, but total alkalinity (TA) is naturally high and beneficial for reef accretion. To date, we know little about how such detrimental and beneficial abiotic factors affect each other and the balance between calcification and erosion on Red Sea coral reefs, i.e., overall reef growth, in this unique ocean basin. To provide estimates of present-day reef growth dynamics in the central Red Sea, we measured two metrics of reef growth, i.e., in situ net-accretion/-erosion rates (Gnet) determined by deployment of limestone blocks and ecosystem-scale carbonate budgets (Gbudget), along a cross-shelf gradient (25km, encompassing nearshore, midshore, and offshore reefs). Along this gradient, we assessed multiple abiotic (i.e., temperature, salinity, diurnal pH fluctuation, inorganic nutrients, and TA) and biotic (i.e., calcifier and epilithic bioeroder communities) variables. Both reef growth metrics revealed similar patterns from nearshore to offshore: net-erosive, neutral, and net-accretion states. The average cross-shelf Gbudget was 0.66kg CaCO3m−2yr−1, with the highest budget of 2.44kg CaCO3m−2yr−1 measured in the offshore reef. These data are comparable to the contemporary Gbudgets from the western Atlantic and Indian oceans, but lie well below "optimal reef production" (5–10kg CaCO3m−2yr−1) and below maxima recently recorded in remote high coral cover reef sites. However, the erosive forces observed in the Red Sea nearshore reef contributed less than observed elsewhere. A higher TA accompanied reef growth across the shelf gradient, whereas stronger diurnal pH fluctuations were associated with negative carbonate budgets. Noteworthy for this oligotrophic region was the positive effect of phosphate, which is a central micronutrient for reef building corals. While parrotfish contributed substantially to bioerosion, our dataset also highlights coralline algae as important local reef builders. Altogether, our study establishes a baseline for reef growth in the central Red Sea that should be useful in assessing trajectories of reef growth capacity under current and future ocean scenarios.
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  • 4
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    Springer
    In:  In: Oceanographic and Biological Aspects of the Red Sea. , ed. by Rasul, N. M. A. and Stewart, I. C. F. Springer, Cham, Switzerland, pp. 401-418. ISBN 978-3-319-99416-1
    Publication Date: 2018-12-14
    Description: Coral reefs in the Red Sea belong to the most diverse and productive reef ecosystems worldwide, although they are exposed to strong seasonal variability, high temperature, and high salinity. These factors are considered stressful for coral reef biota and challenge reef growth in other oceans, but coral reefs in the Red Sea thrive despite these challenges. In the central Red Sea high temperatures, high salinities, and low dissolved oxygen on the one hand reflect conditions that are predicted for ‘future oceans’ under global warming. On the other hand, alkalinity and other carbonate chemistry parameters are considered favourable for coral growth. In coral reefs of the central Red Sea, temperature and salinity follow a seasonal cycle, while chlorophyll and inorganic nutrients mostly vary spatially, and dissolved oxygen and pH fluctuate on the scale of hours to days. Within these strong environmental gradients micro- and macroscopic reef communities are dynamic and demonstrate plasticity and acclimatisation potential. Epilithic biofilm communities of bacteria and algae, crucial for the recruitment of reef-builders, undergo seasonal community shifts that are mainly driven by changes in temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen. These variables are predicted to change with the progression of global environmental change and suggest an immediate effect of climate change on the microbial community composition of biofilms. Corals are so-called holobionts and associate with a variety of microbial organisms that fulfill important functions in coral health and productivity. For instance, coral-associated bacterial communities are more specific and less diverse than those of marine biofilms, and in many coral species in the central Red Sea they are dominated by bacteria from the genus Endozoicomonas. Generally, coral microbiomes align with ecological differences between reef sites. They are similar at sites where these corals are abundant and successful. Coral microbiomes reveal a measurable footprint of anthropogenic influence at polluted sites. Coral-associated communities of endosymbiotic dinoflagellates in central Red Sea corals are dominated by Symbiodinium from clade C. Some corals harbour the same specific symbiont with a high physiological plasticity throughout their distribution range, while others maintain a more flexible association with varying symbionts of high physiological specificity over depths, seasons, or reef locations. The coral-Symbiodinium endosymbiosis drives calcification of the coral skeleton, which is a key process that provides maintenance and formation of the reef framework. Calcification rates and reef growth are not higher than in other coral reef regions, despite the beneficial carbonate chemistry in the central Red Sea. This may be related to the comparatively high temperatures, as indicated by reduced summer calcification and long-term slowing of growth rates that correlate with ocean warming trends. Indeed, thermal limits of abundant coral species in the central Red Sea may have been exceeded, as evidenced by repeated mass bleaching events during previous years. Recent comprehensive baseline data from central Red Sea reefs allow for insight into coral reef functioning and for quantification of the impacts of environmental change in the region.
    Type: Book chapter , NonPeerReviewed
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  • 5
    Publication Date: 2017-03-30
    Description: Sponges are important components of marine benthic environments and are associated with microbial symbionts that carry out ecologically relevant functions. Stylissa carteri is an abundant, low-microbial abundance species in the Red Sea. We aimed to achieve the functional and taxonomic characterization of the most actively expressed prokaryotic genes in S. carteri. Prokaryotic mRNA was enriched from sponge total RNA, sequenced using Illumina HiSeq technology and annotated using the metagenomics Rapid Annotation using Subsystem Technology (MG-RAST) pipeline. We detected high expression of archaeal ammonia oxidation and photosynthetic carbon fixation by members of the genus Synechococcus. Functions related to stress response and membrane transporters were among the most highly expressed by S. carteri symbionts. Unexpectedly, gene functions related to methylotrophy were highly expressed by gammaproteobacterial symbionts. The presence of seawater-derived microbes is indicated by the phylogenetic proximity of organic carbon transporters to orthologues of members from the SAR11 clade. In summary, we revealed the most expressed functions of the S. carteri-associated microbial community and linked them to the dominant taxonomic members of the microbiome. This work demonstrates the applicability of metatranscriptomics to explore poorly characterized symbiotic consortia and expands our knowledge of the ecologically relevant functions carried out by coral reef sponge symbionts.
    Type: Article , PeerReviewed
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  • 6
    Publication Date: 2017-12-19
    Description: Global warming was reported to cause growth reductions in tropical shallow water corals in both, cooler and warmer, regions of the coral species range. This suggests regional adaptation with less heat-tolerant populations in cooler and more thermo-tolerant populations in warmer regions. Here, we investigated seasonal changes in the in situ metabolic performance of the widely distributed hermatypic coral Pocillopora verrucosa along 12 degrees latitudes featuring a steep temperature gradient between the northern (28.5 degrees N, 21-27 degrees C) and southern (16.5 degrees N, 28-33 degrees C) reaches of the Red Sea. Surprisingly, we found little indication for regional adaptation, but strong indications for high phenotypic plasticity: Calcification rates in two seasons (winter, summer) were found to be highest at 28-29 degrees C throughout all populations independent of their geographic location. Mucus release increased with temperature and nutrient supply, both being highest in the south. Genetic characterization of the coral host revealed low inter-regional variation and differences in the Symbiodinium clade composition only at the most northern and most southern region. This suggests variable acclimatization potential to ocean warming of coral populations across the Red Sea: high acclimatization potential in northern populations, but limited ability to cope with ocean warming in southern populations already existing at the upper thermal margin for corals
    Type: Article , PeerReviewed
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  • 7
    Publication Date: 2019-02-01
    Description: Despite the importance of deep-sea corals, our current understanding of their ecology and evolution is limited due to difficulties in sampling and studying deep-sea environments. Moreover, a recent re-evaluation of habitat limitations has been suggested after characterization of deep-sea corals in the Red Sea, where they live at temperatures of above 20 °C at low oxygen concentrations. To gain further insight into the biology of deep-sea corals, we produced reference transcriptomes and studied gene expression of three deep-sea coral species from the Red Sea, i.e. Dendrophyllia sp., Eguchipsammia fistula, and Rhizotrochus typus. Our analyses suggest that deep-sea coral employ mitochondrial hypometabolism and anaerobic glycolysis to manage low oxygen conditions present in the Red Sea. Notably, we found expression of genes related to surface cilia motion that presumably enhance small particle transport rates in the oligotrophic deep-sea environment. This is the first study to characterize transcriptomes and in situ gene expression for deep-sea corals. Our work offers several mechanisms by which deep-sea corals might cope with the distinct environmental conditions present in the Red Sea As such, our data provide direction for future research and further insight to organismal response of deep-sea coral to environmental change and ocean warming.
    Type: Article , PeerReviewed
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  • 8
    Publication Date: 2017-02-28
    Description: The persistence of coral reef ecosystems relies on the symbiotic relationship between scleractinian corals and intracellular, photosynthetic dinoflagellates in the genus Symbiodinium. Genetic evidence indicates that these symbionts are biologically diverse and exhibit discrete patterns of environmental and host distribution. This makes the assessment of Symbiodinium diversity critical to understanding the symbiosis ecology of corals. Here, we applied pyrosequencing to the elucidation of Symbiodinium diversity via analysis of the internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) region, a multicopy genetic marker commonly used to analyse Symbiodinium diversity. Replicated data generated from isoclonal Symbiodinium cultures showed that all genomes contained numerous, yet mostly rare, ITS2 sequence variants. Pyrosequencing data were consistent with more traditional denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) approaches to the screening of ITS2 PCR amplifications, where the most common sequences appeared as the most intense bands. Further, we developed an operational taxonomic unit (OTU)-based pipeline for Symbiodinium ITS2 diversity typing to provisionally resolve ecologically discrete entities from intragenomic variation. A genetic distance cut-off of 0.03 collapsed intragenomic ITS2 variants of isoclonal cultures into single OTUs. When applied to the analysis of field-collected coral samples, our analyses confirm that much of the commonly observed Symbiodinium ITS2 diversity can be attributed to intragenomic variation. We conclude that by analysing Symbiodinium populations in an OTU-based framework, we can improve objectivity, comparability and simplicity when assessing ITS2 diversity in field-based studies.
    Type: Article , PeerReviewed
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  • 9
    Publication Date: 2017-06-22
    Description: Algal symbionts (zooxanthellae, genus Symbiodinium) of scleractinian corals respond strongly to temperature, nutrient and light changes. These factors vary greatly along the north-south gradient in the Red Sea and include conditions, which are outside of those typically considered optimal for coral growth. Nevertheless, coral communities thrive throughout the Red Sea, suggesting that zooxanthellae have successfully acclimatized or adapted to the harsh conditions they experience particularly in the south (high temperatures and high nutrient supply). As such, the Red Sea is a region, which may help to better understand how zooxanthellae and their coral hosts successfully acclimatize or adapt to environmental change (e.g. increased temperatures and localized eutrophication). To gain further insight into the physiology of coral symbionts in the Red Sea, we examined the abundance of dominant Symbiodinium types associated with the coral Pocillopora verrucosa, and measured Symbiodinium physiological characteristics (i.e. photosynthetic processes, cell density, pigmentation, and protein composition) along the latitudinal gradient of the Red Sea in summer and winter. Despite the strong environmental gradients from north to south, our results demonstrate that Symbiodinium microadriaticum (type A1) was the predominant species in P. verrucosa along the latitudinal gradient. Furthermore, measured physiological characteristics were found to vary more with prevailing seasonal environmental conditions than with region-specific differences, although the measured environmental parameters displayed much higher spatial than temporal variability. We conclude that our findings might present the result of long-term acclimatization or adaptation of S. microadriaticum to regionally specific conditions within the Red Sea. Of additional note, high nutrients in the South correlated with high zooxanthellae density indicating a compensation for a temperature-driven loss of photosynthetic performance, which may prove promising for the resilience of these corals under increase of temperature increase and eutrophication.
    Type: Article , PeerReviewed
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  • 10
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    Wiley
    In:  In: Biofouling Methods. , ed. by Dobretsov, S., Williams, D. N. and Thomason, J. Wiley, New York, USA, pp. 93-113. ISBN 978-0-470-65985-4
    Publication Date: 2014-11-06
    Type: Book chapter , NonPeerReviewed
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