ABSTRACT: Sarcophyton soft coral samples collected in Palau 2019 (Dataset includes 83 crude extracts, with two technical replicates and two injections of each, plus 10 reference samples of cembrane diterpenes isolated from soft corals from Palau or Okinawa)
Project description:Environmental impacts can alter relationships between a coral and its symbiotic microbial community. Furthermore, changes in the microbial community associated with increased seawater temperatures can cause opportunistic infections, coral disease and death. Interactions between soft corals and their associated microbes are not well understood. The species Scleronephthya gracillimum is distributed in tropical to temperate zones in coral assemblages along the Kuroshio Current region. In this study we collected S. gracillimum from various sites at different latitudes, and compared composition of their bacterial communities using Next Generation Sequencing. Coral samples from six geographically distinct areas (two sites each in Taiwan, Japan, and Korea) had considerable variation in their associated bacterial communities and diversity. Endozoicimonaceae was the dominant group in corals from Korea and Japan, whereas Mycoplasma was dominant in corals from Taiwan corals. Interestingly, the latter corals had lower relative abundance of Endozoicimonaceae, but greater diversity. These biogeographic differences in bacterial composition may have been due to varying environmental conditions among study locations, or because of host responses to prevailing environmental conditions. This study provided a baseline for future studies of soft coral microbiomes, and assessment of functions of host metabolites and soft coral holobionts.
Project description:Solitary scleractinian corals of the genera Heterocyathus and Heteropsammia inhabit soft marine bottoms without attaching to hard substrata. The corallums of these genera contain a coiled cavity inhabited by a sipunculan that roams the seafloor, carrying the host coral with it. The coral serves as a sturdy shelter that protects the sipunculan from possible predators. At the same time, the sipunculan maintains the coral in an upright position on the soft bottom. This coral-sipunculan association is unique because two phylogenetically distant coral genera have developed convergent associations with sipunculans. We investigate the process of convergent evolution of two coral species, Hc. aequicostatus and Hp. cochlea, in Okinawa, Japan, with their symbiotic sipunculans, using phylogenetic and morphological analyses. Phylogenetic analyses clarified that the symbiotic sipunculans comprise two distinct clades, surprisingly both of which are associated with both coral species. The bodily habitus of the sipunculan differed between coral species and fit the morphologies of the coiled cavities of their respective host corals. Our results suggest that the two coral species share two sipunculan clades and that sipunculan morphology is plastic and determined by the internal structure of their host corals.
Project description:Soft corals often constitute one of the major benthic groups of coral reefs. Although they have been documented to outcompete reef-building corals following environmental disturbances, their physiological performance and thus their functional importance in reefs are still poorly understood. In particular, the acclimatization to depth of soft corals harboring dinoflagellate symbionts and the metabolic interactions between these two partners have received little attention. We performed stable isotope tracer experiments on two soft coral species (Litophyton sp. and Rhytisma fulvum fulvum) from shallow and upper mesophotic Red Sea coral reefs to quantify the acquisition and allocation of autotrophic carbon within the symbiotic association. Carbon acquisition and respiration measurements distinguish Litophyton sp. as mainly autotrophic and Rhytisma fulvum fulvum as rather heterotrophic species. In both species, carbon acquisition was constant at the two investigated depths. This is a major difference from scleractinian corals, whose carbon acquisition decreases with depth. In addition, carbon acquisition and photosynthate translocation to the host decreased with an increase in symbiont density, suggesting that nutrient provision to octocoral symbionts can quickly become a limiting factor of their productivity. These findings improve our understanding of the biology of soft corals at the organism-scale and further highlight the need to investigate how their nutrition will be affected under changing environmental conditions.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Numerous studies have shown that bacteria form stable associations with host corals and have focused on identifying conserved "core microbiomes" of bacterial associates inferred to be serving key roles in the coral holobiont. Because studies tend to focus on only stony corals (order Scleractinia) or soft corals (order Alcyonacea), it is currently unknown if there are conserved bacteria that are shared by both. A meta-analysis was done of 16S rRNA amplicon data from multiple studies generated via identical methodology to allow direct comparisons of bacterial associates across seven deep-sea corals, including both stony and soft species: Anthothela grandiflora, Anthothela sp., Lateothela grandiflora, Lophelia pertusa, Paramuricea placomus, Primnoa pacifica, and Primnoa resedaeformis. RESULTS:Twenty-three operational taxonomic units (OTUs) were consistently present in greater than 50% of the coral samples. Seven amplicon sequence variants (ASVs), five of which corresponded to a conserved OTU, were consistently present in greater than 30% of the coral samples including five or greater coral species. A majority of the conserved sequences had close matches with previously identified coral-associated bacteria. While known to dominate tropical and temperate coral microbiomes, Endozoicomonas were extremely rare or absent from these deep-sea corals. An Endozoicomonas OTU associated with Lo. pertusa in this study was most similar to those from shallow-water stony corals, while an OTU associated with Anthothela spp. was most similar to those from shallow-water gorgonians. CONCLUSIONS:Bacterial sequences have been identified that are conserved at the level of class Anthozoa (i.e., found in both stony and soft corals, shallow and deep). These bacterial associates are therefore hypothesized to play important symbiotic roles and are highlighted for targeted future study. These conserved bacterial associates include taxa with the potential for nitrogen and sulfur cycling, detoxification, and hydrocarbon degradation. There is also some overlap with kit contaminants that need to be resolved. Rarely detected Endozoicomonas sequences are partitioned by whether the host is a stony coral or a soft coral, and the finer clustering pattern reflects the hosts' phylogeny.
Project description:Declining water quality is one of the main reasons of coral reef degradation in the Thousand Islands off the megacity Jakarta, Indonesia. Shifts in benthic community composition to higher soft coral abundances have been reported for many degraded reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific. However, it is not clear to what extent soft coral abundance and physiology are influenced by water quality. In this study, live benthic cover and water quality (i.e. dissolved inorganic nutrients (DIN), turbidity (NTU), and sedimentation) were assessed at three sites (< 20 km north of Jakarta) in Jakarta Bay (JB) and five sites along the outer Thousand Islands (20-60 km north of Jakarta). This was supplemented by measurements of photosynthetic yield and, for the first time, respiratory electron transport system (ETS) activity of two dominant soft coral genera, <i>Sarcophyton</i> spp. and <i>Nephthea</i> spp. Findings revealed highly eutrophic water conditions in JB compared to the outer Thousand Islands, with 44% higher DIN load (7.65 ?M/L), 67% higher NTU (1.49 NTU) and 47% higher sedimentation rate (30.4 g m<sup>-2</sup> d<sup>-1</sup>). Soft corals were the dominant type of coral cover within the bay (2.4% hard and 12.8% soft coral cover) compared to the outer Thousand Islands (28.3% hard and 6.9% soft coral cover). Soft coral abundances, photosynthetic yield, and ETS activity were highly correlated with key water quality parameters, particularly DIN and sedimentation rates. The findings suggest water quality controls the relative abundance and physiology of dominant soft corals in JB and may thus contribute to phase shifts from hard to soft coral dominance, highlighting the need to better manage water quality in order to prevent or reverse phase shifts.
Project description:Recent research indicates that hard corals in a process that is termed phase shift are often replaced by soft corals in reefs. The simultaneous occurrence of local (i.e. organic eutrophication as highly under-investigated parameter) and global (i.e. ocean warming) factors may facilitate these phase shifts as hard corals are negatively affected by both ocean warming and organic eutrophication. Knowledge about soft coral responses to environmental change remains incomplete, although these organisms are becoming important players in reefs. The present study thus investigated the individual and combined effects of organic eutrophication (as glucose addition) and warming on the ecological data of the pulsating soft coral <i>Xenia umbellata</i>. We assessed health status, growth and pulsation rates of soft corals in a 45 day aquarium experiment, with first manipulation of organic eutrophication (no, low, medium and high glucose addition) over 21 days followed by step-wise increases in water temperature from 26 to 32 °C over 24 days. Findings revealed that glucose addition did not affect health status, growth and pulsation rates of the investigated soft corals. Under simulated ocean warming, soft corals that had experienced organic eutrophication before, maintained significantly higher pulsation rates (averaging 22 beats per minute-bpm) and no mortality compared to the controls that showed a decrease of 56% (averaging 15 bpm) in pulsation rates and mortality of 30% at water temperatures of 32 °C compared to 26 °C. This apparently positive effect of organic eutrophication on the ecological data of soft corals under an ocean warming scenario decreased with increasing water temperature. This study thus indicates that (a) organic eutrophication as additional energy source up to a certain threshold may increase the resistance of soft corals to ocean warming and (b) pulsation rates of soft corals may be used as inexpensive, easily detectable, and non-invasive early warning indicator for ocean warming effects on benthic reef communities. When comparing findings of this study for soft corals with previous results for hard corals, it can be assumed that soft corals under the predicted increases of organic eutrophication and warming gain more and more competitive advantages. This may further facilitate phase shifts from hard to soft corals in warming reefs.
Project description:A short-term, localized outbreak of diatoms attached to live corals was observed along the coast of Sesoko Island, Okinawa, Japan in February, 2011. Diatoms are recognized as brown patches in the initial stage, becoming fluffy encrustations and resulting in complete or partial coral death. Attached diatoms, including Licmophora, Climacosphenia, Ardissonea and others, attached and overgrew exclusively Montipora corals, which are dominant corals in some parts of Sesoko reef. Heavily-covered colonies or branches died. The rate of affected corals reached 80% in the worst-affected area. Microscopic observation showed that most diatoms settled directly with polysaccharide stalks or pads onto the partly-bared skeleton of coral branches, although some settled on coral soft tissues. Although no similar phenomenon was reported from other areas of Japan, cold-water events might have important roles in coral weakening, as a consequence, enabling diatom attachment on corals, thus leading to coral death in this area.
Project description:Coral reefs composed of stony corals are threatened by global marine environmental changes. However, soft coral communities of octocorallian species, appear more resilient. The genomes of several cnidarians species have been published, including from stony corals, sea anemones, and hydra. To fill the phylogenetic gap for octocoral species of cnidarians, we sequenced the octocoral, Dendronephthya gigantea, a nonsymbiotic soft coral, commonly known as the carnation coral. The D. gigantea genome size is ∼276 Mb. A high-quality genome assembly was constructed from PacBio long reads (29.85 Gb with 108× coverage) and Illumina short paired-end reads (35.54 Gb with 128× coverage) resulting in the highest N50 value (1.4 Mb) reported thus far among cnidarian genomes. About 12% of the genome is repetitive elements and contained 28,879 predicted protein-coding genes. This gene set is composed of 94% complete BUSCO ortholog benchmark genes, which is the second highest value among the cnidarians, indicating high quality. Based on molecular phylogenetic analysis, octocoral and hexacoral divergence times were estimated at 544 MYA. There is a clear difference in Hox gene composition between these species: unlike hexacorals, the Antp superclass Evx gene was absent in D. gigantea. Here, we present the first genome assembly of a nonsymbiotic octocoral, D. gigantea to aid in the comparative genomic analysis of cnidarians, including stony and soft corals, both symbiotic and nonsymbiotic. The D. gigantea genome may also provide clues to mechanisms of differential coping between the soft and stony corals in response to scenarios of global warming.
Project description:Like scleractinian corals, soft corals contain photosymbionts (Family Symbiodiniaceae) that provide energy for the host. Recent thermal events have resulted in soft coral bleaching in four of five years on Guam, where they dominated back-reef communities. Soft coral bleaching was examined in Sinularia maxima, S. polydactyla, and their hybrid S. maxima x polydactyla. Results from annual field surveys indicated that S. maxima and the hybrid were more susceptible to bleaching than S. polydactyla, and this was related to differences in their Symbiodiniaceae communities in 2016 and 2017. The photosymbionts of S. polydactyla were apparently more stress tolerant and maintained higher photosynthetic potential through three years of bleaching, in contrast to the other species that exhibited a decline in photosynthetic potential after the first year of bleaching. Nonetheless, by the 2017 bleaching event all soft coral populations exhibited significant bleaching-mediated declines and loss of photosynthetic efficiency suggesting a declining resiliency to annual thermal stress events. While S. polydactyla initially looked to succeed the other species as the dominant space occupying soft coral on Guam back-reefs, cumulative bleaching events ultimately turned this "winner" into a "loser", suggesting the trajectory for coral reefs is towards continued loss of structure and function.
Project description:Sarcophyton sp. soft corals are rich in cembranoid diterpenes, which represent the main chemical defense of corals against their natural predators in addition to their myriad biological effects in humans. Quantitative NMR (qNMR) was applied for assessing the diterpene variation in 16 soft coral specimens in the context of their genotype, origin, and growing habitat. qNMR revealed high diterpene levels in Sarcophyton sp. compared to Sinularia and Lobophyton, with (ent)sarcophines as major components (17-100 µg/mg) of the coral tissues. Multivariate data analysis was employed to classify samples based on the quantified level of diterpenes, and compared to the untargeted NMR approach. Results revealed that qNMR provided a stronger classification model of Sarcophyton sp. than untargeted NMR fingerprinting. Additionally, cytotoxicity of soft coral crude extracts was assessed against androgen-dependent prostate cancer cell lines (PC3) and androgen-independent colon cancer cell lines (HT-29), with IC50 values ranging from 10-60 µg/mL. No obvious correlation between the extracts' IC50 values and their diterpene levels was found using either Spearman or Pearson correlations. This suggests that this type of bioactivity may not be easily predicted by NMR metabolomics in soft corals, or is not strongly correlated to measured diterpene levels.