• Captive rearing of the deep-sea coral Eguchipsammia fistula from the Red Sea demonstrates remarkable physiological plasticity

      Roik, Anna; Röthig, Till; Roder, Cornelia; Müller, Paul J.; Voolstra, Christian R.; King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST); Red Sea Research Center, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Thuwal, Saudi Arabia; Red Sea Research Center, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Thuwal, Saudi Arabia; Red Sea Research Center, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Thuwal, Saudi Arabia; Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Thuwal, Saudi Arabia; et al. (2015-01-20)
      The presence of the cosmopolitan deep-sea coral Eguchipsammia fistula has recently been documented in the Red Sea, occurring in warm (>20 ◦C), oxygen- and nutrient-limited habitats. We collected colonies of this species from the central Red Sea that successfully resided in aquaria for more than one year. During this period the corals were exposed to increased oxygen levels and nutrition ad libitum unlike in their natural habitat. Specimens of long-term reared E. fistula colonies were incubated for 24 h and calcification (G) as well as respiration rates (R) were measured. In comparison to on-board measurements of G and R rates on freshly collected specimens, we found that G was increased while R was decreased. E. fistula shows extensive tissue growth and polyp proliferation in aquaculture and can be kept at conditions that notably differ from its natural habitat. Its ability to cope with rapid and prolonged changes in regard to prevailing environmental conditions indicates a wide physiological plasticity. This may explain in part the cosmopolitan distribution of this species and emphasizes its value as a deep-sea coral model to study mechanisms of acclimation and adaptation.
    • Distinct bacterial microbiomes associate with the deep-sea coral Eguchipsammia fistula from the Red Sea and from aquaria settings.

      Röthig, Till; Roik, Anna; Yum, Lauren K.; Voolstra, Christian R.; King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) (Frontiers Media, 2017-08-10)
      Microbial communities associated with deep-sea corals are beginning to be studied in earnest and the contribution of the microbiome to host organismal function remains to be investigated. In this regard, the ability of the microbiome to adjust to prevailing environmental conditions might provide clues to its functional importance. In this study, we characterized bacterial community composition associated with the deep-sea coral Eguchipsammia fistula under natural (in situ) and aquaria (ex situ) settings using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. We compared freshly collected Red Sea coral specimens with those reared for >1 year at conditions that partially differed from the natural environment, in particular regarding increased oxygen and food availability under ex situ conditions. We found substantial differences between the microbiomes associated with corals under both environmental settings. The core microbiome comprised only six bacterial taxa consistently present in all corals, whereas the majority of bacteria were exclusively associated either with freshly collected corals or corals under long-term reared aquaria settings. Putative functional profiling of microbial communities showed that corals in their natural habitat were enriched for processes indicative of a carbon- and nitrogen-limited environment, which might be reflective of differences in diet under in situ and ex situ conditions. The ability of E. fistula to harbor distinct microbiomes under different environmental settings might contribute to the flexibility and phenotypic plasticity of this cosmopolitan coral. Future efforts should further assess the role of these different bacteria in holobiont function, in particular since E. fistula is naturally present in markedly different environments.
    • Transcriptomes and expression profiling of deep-sea corals from the Red Sea provide insight into the biology of azooxanthellate corals

      Yum, Lauren K.; Baumgarten, Sebastian; Röthig, Till; Roder, Cornelia; Roik, Anna; Michell, Craig; Voolstra, Christian R.; King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) (Nature Research, 2017-07-25)
      Despite the importance of deep-sea corals, our current understanding of their ecology and evolutionis limited due to difficulties in sampling and studying deep-sea environments. Moreover, a recent reevaluation of habitat limitations has been suggested after characterization of deep-sea corals in the Red Sea, where they live at temperatures of above 20 °C at low oxygen concentrations. To gain further insight into the biology of deep-sea corals, we produced reference transcriptomes and studied gene expression of three deep-sea coral species from the Red Sea, i.e. Dendrophyllia sp., Eguchipsammia fistula, and Rhizotrochus typus. Our analyses suggest that deep-sea coral employ mitochondrial hypometabolism and anaerobic glycolysis to manage low oxygen conditions present in the Red Sea. Notably, we found expression of genes related to surface cilia motion that presumably enhance small particle transport rates in the oligotrophic deep-sea environment. This is the first study to characterize transcriptomes and in situ gene expression for deep-sea corals. Our work offers several mechanisms by which deep-sea corals might cope with the distinct environmental conditions present in the Red Sea. As such, our data provides direction for future research and further insight to organismal response of deep sea coral to environmental change and ocean warming.