Coral microbial communities, zooxanthellae and mucus along gradients of seawater depth and coastal pollution

James S. Klaus, Ingmar Janse, Jeffrey M. Heikoop, Robert A. Sanford, Bruce W. Fouke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The high incidence of coral disease in shallow coastal marine environments suggests seawater depth and coastal pollution have an impact on the microbial communities inhabiting healthy coral tissues. A study was undertaken to determine how bacterial communities inhabiting tissues of the coral Montastraea annularis change at 5 m, 10 m and 20 m water depth in varying proximity to the urban centre and seaport of Willemstad, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles. Analyses of terminal restriction fragment length polymorphisms (TRFLP) of 16S rRNA gene sequences show significant differences in bacterial communities of polluted and control localities only at the shallowest seawater depth. Furthermore, distinct differences in bacterial communities were found with increasing water depth. Comparisons of TRFLP peaks with sequenced clone libraries indicate the black band disease cyanobacterium clone CD1C11 is common and most abundant on healthy corals in less than 10 m water depth. Similarly, sequences belonging to a previously unrecognized group of likely phototrophic bacteria, herein referred to as CAB-I, were also more common in shallow water. To assess the influence of environmental and physiologic factors on bacterial community structure, canonical correspondence analysis was performed using explanatory variables associated with: (i) light availability; (ii) seawater pollution; (iii) coral mucus composition; (iv) the community structure of symbiotic algae; and (v) the photosynthetic activity of symbiotic algae. Eleven per cent of the variation in bacterial communities was accounted for by covariation with these variables; the most important being photosynthetically active radiation (sunlight) and the coral uptake of sewage-derived compounds as recorded by the δ15N of coral tissue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1291-1305
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Coral microbial communities, zooxanthellae and mucus along gradients of seawater depth and coastal pollution'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this