skip to main content

Search for: All records

Creators/Authors contains: "Lesser, Michael P."

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. Abstract Background The importance of symbiosis has long been recognized on coral reefs, where the photosynthetic dinoflagellates of corals (Symbiodiniaceae) are the primary symbiont. Numerous studies have now shown that a diverse assemblage of prokaryotes also make-up part of the microbiome of corals. A subset of these prokaryotes is capable of fixing nitrogen, known as diazotrophs, and is also present in the microbiome of scleractinian corals where they have been shown to supplement the holobiont nitrogen budget. Here, an analysis of the microbiomes of 16 coral species collected from Australia, Curaçao, and Hawai’i using three different marker genes (16S rRNA, nif H, and ITS2) is presented. These data were used to examine the effects of biogeography, coral traits, and ecological life history characteristics on the composition and diversity of the microbiome in corals and their diazotrophic communities. Results The prokaryotic microbiome community composition (i.e., beta diversity) based on the 16S rRNA gene varied between sites and ecological life history characteristics, but coral morphology was the most significant factor affecting the microbiome of the corals studied. For 15 of the corals studied, only two species Pocillopora acuta and Seriotopora hystrix , both brooders, showed a weak relationship between the 16S rRNA gene community structure and the diazotrophic members of the microbiome using the nif H marker gene, suggesting that many corals support a microbiome with diazotrophic capabilities. The order Rhizobiales , a taxon that contains primarily diazotrophs, are common members of the coral microbiome and were eight times greater in relative abundances in Hawai’i compared to corals from either Curacao or Australia. However, for the diazotrophic component of the coral microbiome, only host species significantly influenced the composition and diversity of the community. Conclusions The roles and interactions between members of the coral holobiont are still not well understood, especially critical functions provided by the coral microbiome (e.g., nitrogen fixation), and the variation of these functions across species. The findings presented here show the significant effect of morphology, a coral “super trait,” on the overall community structure of the microbiome in corals and that there is a strong association of the diazotrophic community within the microbiome of corals. However, the underlying coral traits linking the effects of host species on diazotrophic communities remain unknown. 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Sponges are increasingly recognized as an ecologically important taxon on coral reefs, representing significant biomass and biodiversity where sponges have replaced scleractinian corals. Most sponge species can be divided into two symbiotic states based on symbiont community structure and abundance (i.e., the microbiome), and are characterized as high microbial abundance (HMA) or low microbial abundance (LMA) sponges. Across the Caribbean, sponge species of the HMA or LMA symbiotic states differ in metabolic capacity, as well as their trophic ecology. A metagenetic analysis of symbiont 16 S rRNA and metagenomes showed that HMA sponge microbiomes are more functionally diverse than LMA microbiomes, offer greater metabolic functional capacity and redundancy, and encode for the biosynthesis of secondary metabolites. Stable isotope analyses showed that HMA and LMA sponges primarily consume dissolved organic matter (DOM) derived from external autotrophic sources, or live particulate organic matter (POM) in the form of bacterioplankton, respectively, resulting in a low degree of resource competition between these symbiont states. As many coral reefs have undergone phase shifts from coral- to macroalgal-dominated reefs, the role of DOM, and the potential for future declines in POM due to decreased picoplankton productivity, may result in an increased abundance of chemically defended HMA sponges on tropical coral reefs.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    On Caribbean coral reefs, sponges are important members of the benthic community and have an important role in consuming particulate organic matter (POM) and dissolved organic matter (DOM), with the subsequent production of detritus that is then shunted into a process now referred to as the “sponge‐loop.” An emergent species of sponge commonly found on Caribbean coral reefs,Agelas tubulata, increases in size and growth rate from shallow (< 30 m) to mesophotic depths (30–150 m) on Grand Cayman Island.A.tubulatadepends largely on heterotrophy across shallow to mesophotic depths and has been shown to utilize detritus on shallow reefs. However, detritus production byA.tubulataon shallow and mesophotic coral reefs has not been previously reported. Here we show, using flow cytometry, that sponge detritus includes a previously unquantified component, phytodetritus. Sponge phytodetritus production was shown experimentally to be greater in sponges from mesophotic depths compared to sponges from shallow coral reefs. Additionally, the size range of this phytodetritus corresponds to the size range of autotrophic picoplankton, primarily prochlorophytes, known to be an important food source for filter‐feeding sponges. Given the known lability of phytodetritus, compared to other more recalcitrant components of the detrital pool, its role in the food web of mesophotic communities combined with the increased availability of live POM, may be an underappreciated component of mesophotic community carbon and nitrogen flow.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract Coral reefs continue to experience extreme environmental pressure from climate change stressors, but many coral reefs are also exposed to eutrophication. It has been proposed that changes in the stoichiometry of ambient nutrients increase the mortality of corals, whereas eutrophication may facilitate phase shifts to macroalgae-dominated coral reefs when herbivory is low or absent. But are corals ever nutrient limited, and can eutrophication destabilize the coral symbiosis making it more sensitive to environmental stress because of climate change? The effects of eutrophication are confounded not just by the effects of climate change but by the presence of chemical pollutants in industrial, urban, and agricultural wastes. Because of these confounding effects, the increases in nutrients or changes in their stoichiometry in coastal environments, although they are important at the organismal and community level, cannot currently be disentangled from each other or from the more significant effects of climate change stressors on coral reefs. 
    more » « less
  5. Schaack, Sarah (Ed.)
    Abstract Apoptosis is a fundamental feature of multicellular animals and is best understood in mammals, flies, and nematodes, with the invertebrate models being thought to represent a condition of ancestral simplicity. However, the existence of a leukemia-like cancer in the softshell clam Mya arenaria provides an opportunity to re-evaluate the evolution of the genetic machinery of apoptosis. Here, we report the whole-genome sequence for M. arenaria which we leverage with existing data to test evolutionary hypotheses on the origins of apoptosis in animals. We show that the ancestral bilaterian p53 locus, a master regulator of apoptosis, possessed a complex domain structure, in contrast to that of extant ecdysozoan p53s. Further, ecdysozoan taxa, but not chordates or lophotrochozoans like M. arenaria, show a widespread reduction in apoptosis gene copy number. Finally, phylogenetic exploration of apoptosis gene copy number reveals a striking linkage with p53 domain complexity across species. Our results challenge the current understanding of the evolution of apoptosis and highlight the ancestral complexity of the bilaterian apoptotic tool kit and its subsequent dismantlement during the ecdysozoan radiation. 
    more » « less
  6. Abstract

    While the effects of irradiance on coral productivity are well known, corals along a shallow to mesophotic depth gradient (10–100 m) experience incident irradiances determined by the optical properties of the water column, coral morphology, and reef topography.

    Modeling of productivity (i.e., carbon fixation) using empirical data shows that hemispherical colonies photosynthetically fix significantly greater amounts of carbon across all depths, and throughout the day, compared with plating and branching morphologies. In addition, topography (i.e., substrate angle) further influences the rate of productivity of corals but does not change the hierarchy of coral morphologies relative to productivity.

    The differences in primary productivity for different coral morphologies are not, however, entirely consistent with the known ecological distributions of these coral morphotypes in the mesophotic zone as plating corals often become the dominant morphotype with increasing depth.

    Other colony‐specific features such as skeletal scattering of light, Symbiodiniaceae species, package effect, or tissue thickness contribute to the variability in the ecological distributions of morphotypes over the depth gradient and are captured in the metric known as the minimum quantum requirements.

    Coral morphology is a strong proximate cause for the observed differences in productivity, with secondary effects of reef topography on incident irradiances, and subsequently the community structure of mesophotic corals.

    more » « less
  7. Abstract

    Corals and sponges harbor diverse microbial communities that are integral to the functioning of the host. While the taxonomic diversity of their microbiomes has been well-established for corals and sponges, their functional roles are less well-understood. It is unclear if the similarities of symbiosis in an invertebrate host would result in functionally similar microbiomes, or if differences in host phylogeny and environmentally driven microhabitats within each host would shape functionally distinct communities. Here we addressed this question, using metatranscriptomic and 16S rRNA gene profiling techniques to compare the microbiomes of two host organisms from different phyla. Our results indicate functional similarity in carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur assimilation, and aerobic nitrogen cycling. Additionally, there were few statistical differences in pathway coverage or abundance between the two hosts. For example, we observed higher coverage of phosphonate and siderophore metabolic pathways in the star coral,Montastraea cavernosa, while there was higher coverage of chloroalkane metabolism in the giant barrel sponge,Xestospongia muta. Higher abundance of genes associated with carbon fixation pathways was also observed inM. cavernosa, while inX. mutathere was higher abundance of fatty acid metabolic pathways. Metagenomic predictions based on 16S rRNA gene profiling analysis were similar, and there was high correlation between the metatranscriptome and metagenome predictions for both hosts. Our results highlight several metabolic pathways that exhibit functional similarity in these coral and sponge microbiomes despite the taxonomic differences between the two microbiomes, as well as potential specialization of some microbially based metabolism within each host.

    more » « less