Microbiomes of gall-inducing copepod crustaceans from the corals Stylophora pistillata (Scleractinia) and Gorgonia ventalina (Alcyonacea)
Corals harbor complex and diverse microbial communities that strongly impact host fitness and resistance to diseases, but these microbes themselves can be influenced by stresses, like those caused by the presence of macroscopic symbionts. In addition to directly influencing the host, symbionts may transmit pathogenic microbial communities. We analyzed two coral gall-forming copepod systems by using 16S rRNA gene metagenomic sequencing: (1) the sea fan Gorgonia ventalina with copepods of the genus Sphaerippe from the Caribbean and (2) the scleractinian coral Stylophora pistillata with copepods of the genus Spaniomolgus from the Saudi Arabian part of the Red Sea. We show that bacterial communities in these two systems were substantially different with Actinobacteria, Alphaproteobacteria, and Betaproteobacteria more prevalent in samples from Gorgonia ventalina, and Gammaproteobacteria in Stylophora pistillata. In Stylophora pistillata, normal coral microbiomes were enriched with the common coral symbiont Endozoicomonas and some unclassified bacteria, while copepod and gall-tissue microbiomes were highly enriched with the family ME2 (Oceanospirillales) or Rhodobacteraceae. In Gorgonia ventalina, no bacterial group had significantly different prevalence in the normal coral tissues, copepods, and injured tissues. The total microbiome composition of polyps injured by copepods was different. Contrary to our expectations, the microbial community composition of the injured gall tissues was not directly affected by the microbiome of the gall-forming symbiont copepods.