Fish have diverse, distinct gut microbiomes

Science Daily –

The rich biodiversity of coral reefs even extends to microbial communities within fish, according to new research. The study in Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences reports that several important grazing fish on Caribbean coral reefs each harbor a distinct microbial community within their guts, revealing a new perspective on reef ecology.

“If you go snorkeling on a coral reef, you would never know about this incredible ecosystem feature because microbial communities are concealed to the naked eye,” said Douglas Rasher, a senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and the senior author of the paper. “But the microbiome appears to be a defining feature of each herbivorous fish species, as unique as its size or feeding behavior.”

Rasher and collaborators from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the University of California Santa Barbara, and Florida International University documented the feeding behaviors of five common Caribbean fish species and found that they markedly differ in what they eat and where they feed on the reef. Using advanced genetic sequencing and computing techniques, the researchers identified the microbes collected from within each fish’s gut — and discovered that each herbivore species harbors a unique gut microbiome.

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