Impact of parrotfish predation on coral health: changes in microbiome and pathogen defense
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Coral reefs are in rapid decline, and it is imperative to study reef community interactions in order to mitigate and reverse this trajectory. This study explores the relationship between corals and parrotfish, investigating how parrotfish bites on coral impact the composition of the coral’s microbiome and the corals suppression of a common bacterial pathogen. Fragments of Porites lobata coral colonies that were heavily predated by parrotfish or that showed no signs of parrotfish predation were shaken in seawater, and this seawater was bioassayed against the common coral pathogen Vibrio coralliilyticus to assess the effects of previous predation on the coral’s ability to suppress this ecologically relevant pathogen. Additionally, we sequenced the 16S rRNA gene from each coral sample to investigate possible alterations of the coral’s microbiome due to predation. Neither alpha diversity nor beta diversity of the microbiome was impacted by parrotfish predation. However, some bacteria were differentially abundant, such as those of the genus Endozoicomonas. Bioassays of water in which coral fragments were agitated detected no impact of previous parrotfish attack on the coral’s suppression of the pathogen Vibrio coralliilyticus. Overall, this speaks to the resistance and strength that corals demonstrate in the face of parrotfish predation.