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SPCMSC Scientist Publishes New Paper Identifying Unexpected Microbiomes in Deep-Sea Corals

SPCMSC Research Microbiologist Christina Kellogg and colleague Zoe Pratte publish a new paper, “Unexpected diversity of Endozoicomonas in deep-sea corals” in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series. This is the first report of coral microbiomes dominated by Endozoicomonas (a common bacterial symbiont in tropical and temperate corals, but rare in deep cold-water corals

Image: Deep-Sea Coral: Lophelia pertusa
Live Lophelia pertusa is white because the calcium carbonate skeleton shows through the nonpigmented coral tissue. Dead coral is soon covered in a brown biofilm. The red-orange squat lobster (Eumunida picta) in the center of the photo is prepared to catch its dinner. (Credit: USGS DISCOVRE, NOAA  DeepSEARCH. Public domain.)

The deep ocean hosts a large diversity of azooxanthellate (non-algae hosting) cold-water corals whose associated microbiomes remain to be described. While the bacterial genus Endozoicomonas has been widely identified as a dominant associate of tropical and temperate corals, it has rarely been detected in deep-sea corals. This is the first report of coral microbiomes dominated by Endozoicomonas occurring below 1000 meters, at temperatures near 4°C. Further, the paper describes a globally distributed deep-sea coral that does not typically host this bacterial group anywhere else in the world, but is dominated by it at two locations off the U.S. east coast. Determining microbial baselines for these cold-water corals is a critical first step to understanding the ecosystem services their microbiomes contribute, while providing a benchmark against which to measure responses to environmental change or anthropogenic effects. 

The abstract has been accepted by Marine Ecology Progress Series and is online now; the full paper is estimated to release before September 30th. Please visit for more information.

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