Thermal regime and host clade, rather than geography, drive Symbiodinium and bacterial assemblages in the scleractinian coral Pocillopora damicornis sensu lato.Microbiome. 2018 02 20; 6(1):39.M
Although the term holobiont has been popularized in corals with the advent of the hologenome theory of evolution, the underlying concepts are still a matter of debate. Indeed, the relative contribution of host and environment and especially thermal regime in shaping the microbial communities should be examined carefully to evaluate the potential role of symbionts for holobiont adaptation in the context of global changes. We used the sessile, long-lived, symbiotic and environmentally sensitive reef-building coral Pocillopora damicornis to address these issues.
We sampled Pocillopora damicornis colonies corresponding to two different mitochondrial lineages in different geographic areas displaying different thermal regimes: Djibouti, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, and Taiwan. The community composition of bacteria and the algal endosymbiont Symbiodinium were characterized using high-throughput sequencing of 16S rRNA gene and internal transcribed spacer, ITS2, respectively. Bacterial microbiota was very diverse with high prevalence of Endozoicomonas, Arcobacter, and Acinetobacter in all samples. While Symbiodinium sub-clade C1 was dominant in Taiwan and New Caledonia, D1 was dominant in Djibouti and French Polynesia. Moreover, we also identified a high background diversity (i.e., with proportions < 1%) of A1, C3, C15, and G Symbiodinum sub-clades. Using redundancy analyses, we found that the effect of geography was very low for both communities and that host genotypes and temperatures differently influenced Symbiodinium and bacterial microbiota. Indeed, while the constraint of host haplotype was higher than temperatures on bacterial composition, we showed for the first time a strong relationship between the composition of Symbiodinium communities and minimal sea surface temperatures.
Because Symbiodinium assemblages are more constrained by the thermal regime than bacterial communities, we propose that their contribution to adaptive capacities of the holobiont to temperature changes might be higher than the influence of bacterial microbiota. Moreover, the link between Symbiodinium community composition and minimal temperatures suggests low relative fitness of clade D at lower temperatures. This observation is particularly relevant in the context of climate change, since corals will face increasing temperatures as well as much frequent abnormal cold episodes in some areas of the world.