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Development of bacterial biofilms on artificial corals in comparison to surface-associated microbes of hard coralsSweet, Michael J.; Croquer, Aldo; Bythell, John C.; Lopez-Garcia, Purification (2013-09-24)Numerous studies have demonstrated the differences in bacterial communities associated with corals versus those in their surrounding environment. However, these environmental samples often represent vastly different microbial microenvironments with few studies having looked at the settlement and growth of bacteria on surfaces similar to corals. As a result, it is difficult to determine which bacteria are associated specifically with coral tissue surfaces. In this study, early stages of passive settlement from the water column to artificial coral surfaces (formation of a biofilm) were assessed. Changes in bacterial diversity (16S rRNA gene), were studied on artificially created resin nubbins that were modelled from the skeleton of the reef building coral Acropora muricata. These models were dip-coated in sterile agar, mounted in situ on the reef and followed over time to monitor bacterial community succession. The bacterial community forming the biofilms remained significantly different (R = 0.864 p,0.05) from that of the water column and from the surface mucus layer (SML) of the coral at all times from 30 min to 96 h. The water column was dominated by members of the aproteobacteria, the developed community on the biofilms dominated by c-proteobacteria, whereas that within the SML was composed of a more diverse array of groups. Bacterial communities present within the SML do not appear to arise from passive settlement from the water column, but instead appear to have become established through a selection process. This selection process was shown to be dependent on some aspects of the physico-chemical structure of the settlement surface, since agar-coated slides showed distinct communities to coral-shaped surfaces. However, no significant differences were found between different surface coatings, including plain agar and agar enhanced with coral mucus exudates. Therefore future work should consider physico-chemical surface properties as factors governing change in microbial diversity.