From Nemo to Jaws: Understanding the Fish Microbiome

Speaker: Dr. Zoe Pratte
Georgia Tech   
From Nemo to Jaws: Understanding the Fish Microbiome
Abstract: Cartilaginous and bony fishes have extensive biodiversity, together encompassing approximately 30,000 species. Despite comprising nearly half of all vertebrate species, little is known about the microbial communities that live in and on these fishes. Collectively known as the microbiome, these communities are a critical component to host health, playing important roles in protection against pathogens, modulating nutritional intake from food, and as indicators of overall animal health.  A collaboration between Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia Aquarium, and OCEARCH has allowed the first comprehensive microbial analysis of a diverse array of bony and cartilaginous fishes. From clownfish to white sharks, certain properties of the fecal microbiome are strikingly similar, notably a consistent high abundance of Photobacterium, Fusobacterium, and Clostridia bacteria. However, key differences in community structure are also apparent.  Although the sample size remains limited, carnivorous fishes, particularly top predators such as white sharks, seem to have remarkably low microbiome diversity, with as few as 11 bacterial taxa comprising the fecal microbiome. Factors that influence microbiome structure are complex, vary among body niches (e.g., gill, skin, cloaca, feces), and include host species, diet, and life stage; environmental conditions (e.g., wild vs. captivity); and interactions with other organisms. For example, our work shows that contact with an anemone alters the skin microbiome of clownfish, and that captive eagle rays (at Georgia Aquarium) exhibit significant restructuring of both internal and external microbiomes but also retain core microbiome members shared with wild individuals. These and other findings are building a comprehensive understanding of the fish microbiome, providing critical information to help better conserve, protect, and manage the health of wild and captive fish populations.
Host: Chris Kellogg, USGS

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