Alternate life history phases of a common seaweed have distinct microbial surface communities.Mol Ecol. 2018 09; 27(17):3555-3568.ME
Macroalgal life histories are complex, often involving the alternation of distinct free-living life history phases that differ in morphology, longevity and ploidy. The surfaces of marine macroalgae support diverse microbial biofilms, yet the degree of microbial variation between alternate phases is unknown. We quantified bacterial (16S rRNA gene) and microeukaryote (18S rRNA gene) communities on the surface of the common intertidal seaweed, Mastocarpus spp., which alternates between gametophyte (foliose, haploid) and sporophyte (encrusting, diploid) life history phases. A large portion (97%) of bacterial taxa on the surface Mastocarpus was also present in samples from the environment, indicating that macroalgal surface communities are largely assembled from the surrounding seawater. Still, changes in the relative abundance of bacterial taxa result in significantly different communities on alternate Mastocarpus life history phases, rocky substrate and seawater at all intertidal elevations. For microeukaryote assemblages, only high intertidal samples had significant differences between life history phases although sporophytes were not different from the rocky substrate at this elevation; gametophytes and sporophytes did not differ in microeukaryote communities in the mid and low zones. By sequencing three host genes, we identified three cryptic species of Mastocarpus in our data set, which co-occur in the mid-to-low intertidal zone. In these samples, M. alaskensis sporophytes harboured distinct bacterial communities compared to M. agardhii and M. intermedius sporophytes, which were not distinguishable. Conversely, microeukaryote communities did not differ among species.