Phage Diving: An Exploration of the Carcharhinid Shark Epidermal Virome

Ryan D. Hesse, Michael Roach, Emma N. Kerr, Bhavya Papudeshi, Laís F.O. Lima, Asha Z. Goodman, Lisa Hoopes, Mark Scott, Lauren Meyer, Charlie Huveneers, Elizabeth A. Dinsdale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
32 Downloads (Pure)


The epidermal microbiome is a critical element of marine organismal immunity, but the epidermal virome of marine organisms remains largely unexplored. The epidermis of sharks represents a unique viromic ecosystem. Sharks secrete a thin layer of mucus which harbors a diverse microbiome, while their hydrodynamic dermal denticles simultaneously repel environmental microbes. Here, we sampled the virome from the epidermis of three shark species in the family Carcharhinidae: the genetically and morphologically similar Carcharhinus obscurus (n = 6) and Carcharhinus galapagensis (n = 10) and the outgroup Galeocerdo cuvier (n = 15). Virome taxonomy was characterized using shotgun metagenomics and compared with a suite of multivariate analyses. All three sharks retain species-specific but highly similar epidermal viromes dominated by uncharacterized bacteriophages which vary slightly in proportional abundance within and among shark species. Intraspecific variation was lower among C. galapagensis than among C. obscurus and G. cuvier. Using both the annotated and unannotated reads, we were able to determine that the Carcharhinus galapagensis viromes were more similar to that of G. cuvier than they were to that of C. obscurus, suggesting that behavioral niche may be a more prominent driver of virome than host phylogeny.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1969
Number of pages11
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • Bacteriophage
  • carcharhinid
  • denticle
  • epidermis
  • metagenomics
  • shark
  • virome


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