Vibrio communities associated with the azooxanthellate coral Tubastraea coccinea as compared to zooxanthellate shallow sea corals
A coral is made up of key associations between endosymbiotic zooxanthellae, protists, bacteria, archaea, viruses, and fungi. These microbe-coral interactions can be very beneficial, some associations providing key functions in reproduction, nutrition, and antimicrobial protection. However, as a coral becomes thermally stressed, the ability to regulate microbe growth in its surface mucus layer becomes diminished and opportunistic pathogens are able to colonize. Corals may be able to adapt for the changing reef ecosystem by selecting for more beneficial associations: one of the facets of the coral probiotic hypothesis. The invasive azooxanthellate coral Tubastraea coccinea is able to colonize very shallow, hot and turbid areas that are not favorable for settlement by other species. However, not much is known about T. coccinea other than its invasive nature in the Caribbean. The purpose of this investigation was to determine if the surface microbial communities of T. coccinea are one of the factors aiding its survival. Culturing on Thiosulfate Citrate Bile Salt plates was used to visualize and compare the overall culturable Vibrio spp. communities present in T. coccinea and other widespread shallow corals. At each site, the numbers of Vibrio spp. were not significantly different between the three species, but numbers of a gram-positive bacteria, Enterococcus spp., were found to be significantly higher in T. coccinea.