Bacterial community associated with the reef coral mussismilia braziliensis's momentum boundary layer over a diel cycle

Cynthia B. Silveira, Gustavo B. Gregoracci, Felipe H. Coutinho, Genivaldo G.Z. Silva, John M. Haggerty, Louisi S. de Oliveira, Anderson S. Cabral, Carlos E. Rezende, Cristiane C. Thompson, Ronaldo B. Francini-Filho, Robert A. Edwards, Elizabeth A. Dinsdale, Fabiano L. Thompson

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Corals display circadian physiological cycles, changing from autotrophy during the day to heterotrophy during the night. Such physiological transition offers distinct environments to the microbial community associated with corals: an oxygen-rich environment during daylight hours and an oxygen-depleted environment during the night. Most studies of coral reef microbes have been performed on samples taken during the day, representing a bias in the understanding of the composition and function of these communities. We hypothesized that coral circadian physiology alters the composition and function of microbial communities in reef boundary layers. Here, we analyzed microbial communities associated with the momentum boundary layer (MBL) of the Brazilian endemic reef coral Mussismilia braziliensis during a diurnal cycle, and compared them to the water column. We determined microbial abundance and nutrient concentration in samples taken within a few centimeters of the coral's surface every 6 h for 48 h, and sequenced microbial metagenomes from a subset of the samples. We found that dominant taxa and functions in the coral MBL community were stable over the time scale of our sampling, with no significant shifts between night and day samples. Interestingly, the two water column metagenomes sampled 1 m above the corals were also very similar to the MBL metagenomes. When all samples were analyzed together, nutrient concentration significantly explained 40% of the taxonomic dissimilarity among dominant genera in the community. Functional profiles were highly homogenous and not significantly predicted by any environmental variables measured. Our data indicated that water flow may overrule the effects of coral physiology in the MBL bacterial community, at the scale of centimeters, and suggested that sampling resolution at the scale of millimeters may be necessary to address diurnal variation in community composition.

Original languageEnglish
Article number784
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2017 Silveira, Gregoracci, Coutinho, Silva, Haggerty, de Oliveira, Cabral, Rezende, Thompson, Francini-Filho, Edwards, Dinsdale and Thompson. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


  • Abrolhos
  • Coral momentum boundary layer
  • Coral mucus
  • Coral physiology
  • Coral reef microbiome
  • Diurnal cycle


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