Highly structured prokaryote communities exist within the skeleton of coral colonies

Vanessa R Marcelino, Madeleine JH Van Oppen, Heroen Verbruggen

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38 Citations (Scopus)


Physiological performance, disease and bleaching prevalence are often patchy within individual coral colonies. These responses are largely influenced by coral-associated microbes, but how the coral microbiome changes over small spatial scales has never been quantified before. We performed a high-resolution quantification of the spatial scale of microbial species turnover (β-diversity) within skeletons of boulder-forming Porites corals. We found very strong prokaryotic species turnover across spatial scales ranging from 4 mm to 2 m within individual colonies, possibly resulting from dispersal limitation and microbial interactions. The microalgal community was more homogeneously distributed, which is likely due to these photosymbionts actively boring through limestone. Our findings highlight unprecedented levels of intra-colony heterogeneity in the skeletal microbiome, which has implications for the experimental design of coral microbiome studies and for our understanding of coral resilience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)300-303
Number of pages4
JournalThe ISME Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • biodiversity
  • environmental microbiology
  • microbial ecology
  • microbiome

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