Symbiosis and microbiome flexibility in calcifying benthic foraminifera of the Great Barrier Reef

Prazeres, Martina, Ainsworth, Tracy, Roberts, T. Edward, Pandolfi, John M., and Leggat, William (2017) Symbiosis and microbiome flexibility in calcifying benthic foraminifera of the Great Barrier Reef. Microbiome, 5 (38).

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Background: Symbiosis is a phenomenon that allows organisms to colonise a wide range of environments and occupy a variety of ecological niches in marine environments. Large benthic foraminifera (LBF) are crucial marine calcifiers that rely on photo-endosymbionts for growth and calcification, yet the influence of environmental conditions in shaping their interactions with prokaryotic and eukaryotic associates is poorly known.

Results: Here, we used next-generation sequencing to identify eukaryotic photosynthesizing and prokaryotic microbes associated with the common LBF Amphistegina lobifera across a physio-chemical gradient on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). We collected samples from three reef sites located in the inner-, mid-and outer-shelf regions of the northern section of the GBR. Results showed the consistent presence of Bacillaryophyta as the main eukaryotic taxa associated with A. lobifera across all reef sites analysed; however, the abundance and the diversity of prokaryotic organisms varied among reef sites. Inner-shelf specimens showed the highest diversity of prokaryote associates, with a total of 231 genotypes in their core microbiome. A total of 30 taxa were identified in the core microbiome across all reef sites. Within these taxa, Proteobacteria was the most abundant bacteria present. The presence of groups such as Actinobacteria was significantly correlated with inner-shelf populations, whereas the abundance of Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes was associated with A. lobifera collected from mid-and outer-shelf reef sites.

Conclusions: We found that benthic foraminifera form stable and persistent symbiosis with eukaryotic partners, but flexible and site-specific associations with prokaryotic microbes that likely influence the ecological success of these crucial calcifying organisms on the GBR.

Item ID: 50386
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2049-2618
Keywords: bacterial community, large benthic foraminifera, amphistegina, photosymbionts, environmental gradient
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This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEE), Ian Potter Doctoral Fellowship at Lizard Island
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2017 08:28
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9602 Atmosphere and Weather > 960202 Atmospheric Processes and Dynamics @ 100%
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