Image_3_Microbial Community Shifts Associated With the Ongoing Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease Outbreak on the Florida Reef Tract.TIFF

As many as 22 of the 45 coral species on the Florida Reef Tract are currently affected by stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD). The ongoing disease outbreak was first observed in 2014 in Southeast Florida near Miami and as of early 2019 has been documented from the northernmost reaches of the reef tract in Martin County down to Key West. We examined the microbiota associated with disease lesions and apparently healthy tissue on diseased colonies of Montastraea cavernosa, Orbicella faveolata, Diploria labyrinthiformis, and Dichocoenia stokesii. Analysis of differentially abundant taxa between disease lesions and apparently healthy tissue identified five unique amplicon sequence variants enriched in the diseased tissue in three of the coral species (all except O. faveolata), namely an unclassified genus of Flavobacteriales and sequences identified as Fusibacter (Clostridiales), Planktotalea (Rhodobacterales), Algicola (Alteromonadales), and Vibrio (Vibrionales). In addition, several groups of likely opportunistic or saprophytic colonizers such as Epsilonbacteraeota, Patescibacteria, Clostridiales, Bacteroidetes, and Rhodobacterales were also enriched in SCTLD disease lesions. This work represents the first microbiological characterization of SCTLD, as an initial step toward identifying the potential pathogen(s) responsible for SCTLD.