Marine Science Faculty Publications

Microbial Associations of Four Species of Algal Symbiont-Bearing Foraminifers from the Florida Reef Tract, USA

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While microbiome research is a rapidly expanding field of study, relatively little is known of the microbiomes associated with Foraminifera. This preliminary study investigated microbes associated with four species of Foraminifera, representing two taxonomic orders, which host three kinds of algal endosymbionts. A major objective was to explore potential influences on the microbiome composition, including phylogenetic relatedness among the host species, similarities in algal symbionts hosted, and environmental conditions from which the specimens were collected. Samples examined from two locations along the middle Florida Keys reef tract included 45 foraminiferal specimens and four environmental samples. Bacterial DNA extraction from individual specimens was followed by amplification and amplicon sequencing of the V4 variable region of the 16S rRNA gene; results were obtained from 21 specimens.

The Order Miliolida, Family Soritidae, was represented by 5–8 specimens of each of three species: Archaias angulatus and Cyclorbiculina compressa, which both host chlorophyte symbionts, and Sorites orbiculus, which hosts dinoflagellate symbionts. Three Ar. angulatus specimens from which the microbiome was successfully sequenced shared 177 OTUs. Six C. compressa specimens successfully sequenced shared 58 OTUs, of which 31 were also shared by the three specimens of Ar. angulatus. Four successfully sequenced S. orbiculus specimens shared 717 unique OTUs. The 13 soritid specimens shared 26 OTUs, 23 of which represented Proteobacteria, predominantly of the bacterial family Rhodobacteraceae.

The fourth foraminiferal species, Amphistegina gibbosa (Order Rotaliida) hosts diatom endosymbionts. Bacterial DNA extraction was attempted on 16 Am. gibbosa, including both normal-appearing and partly-bleached specimens. Only six OTUs, four of which represented Proteobacteria, were found in all eight specimens successfully sequenced. The partly bleached specimens shared nearly twice as many unique microbial OTUs (32) as the normal-appearing specimens (19). All Am. gibbosa specimens shared only four microbial OTUs with the soritid species, three of which may have been contaminants, indicating minimal commonality between the microbiomes of Am. gibbosa and the soritid taxa.

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Journal of Foraminiferal Research, v. 49, issue 2, p. 178-190