The Epidermal Microbiome Within an Aggregation of Leopard Sharks (Triakis semifasciata) Has Taxonomic Flexibility with Gene Functional Stability Across Three Time-points

Michael P. Doane, Colton J. Johnson, Shaili Johri, Emma N. Kerr, Megan M. Morris, Ric Desantiago, Abigail C. Turnlund, Asha Goodman, Maria Mora, Laís Farias Oliveira Lima, Andrew P. Nosal, Elizabeth A. Dinsdale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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The epidermis of Chondrichthyan fishes consists of dermal denticles with production of minimal but protein-rich mucus that collectively, influence the attachment and biofilm development of microbes, facilitating a unique epidermal microbiome. Here, we use metagenomics to provide the taxonomic and functional characterization of the epidermal microbiome of the Triakis semifasciata (leopard shark) at three time-points collected across 4 years to identify links between microbial groups and host metabolism. Our aims include (1) describing the variation of microbiome taxa over time and identifying recurrent microbiome members (present across all time-points); (2) investigating the relationship between the recurrent and flexible taxa (those which are not found consistently across time-points); (3) describing the functional compositions of the microbiome which may suggest links with the host metabolism; and (4) identifying whether metabolic processes are shared across microbial genera or are unique to specific taxa. Microbial members of the microbiome showed high similarity between all individuals (Bray–Curtis similarity index = 82.7, where 0 = no overlap, 100 = total overlap) with the relative abundance of those members varying across sampling time-points, suggesting flexibility of taxa in the microbiome. One hundred and eighty-eight genera were identified as recurrent, including Pseudomonas, Erythrobacter, Alcanivorax, Marinobacter, and Sphingopxis being consistently abundant across time-points, while Limnobacter and Xyella exhibited switching patterns with high relative abundance in 2013, Sphingobium and Sphingomona in 2015, and Altermonas, Leeuwenhoekiella, Gramella, and Maribacter in 2017. Of the 188 genera identified as recurrent, the top 19 relatively abundant genera formed three recurrent groups. The microbiome also displayed high functional similarity between individuals (Bray–Curtis similarity index = 97.6) with gene function composition remaining consistent across all time-points. These results show that while the presence of microbial genera exhibits consistency across time-points, their abundances do fluctuate. Microbial functions however remain stable across time-points; thus, we suggest the leopard shark microbiomes exhibit functional redundancy. We show coexistence of microbes hosted in elasmobranch microbiomes that encode genes involved in utilizing nitrogen, but not fixing nitrogen, degrading urea, and resistant to heavy metal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)747-764
Number of pages18
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number2
Early online date7 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • Leopard shark
  • Microbiome
  • Next-generation sequencing
  • Shark skin
  • Triakis semifasciata


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