Coral microbiomes in a warming ocean

Reef building corals are of global importance as they form high-biodiversity ecosystems in tropical oceans, but are acutely threatened by ocean warming.

Corals are ‘metaorganisms’: The coral host lives closely associated with diverse and complex microbiome communities. Excessive heat stress induces the breakdown of the association between the coral host and dinoflagellate microalgal symbionts leading to ‘coral bleaching’ and mortality. However, the roles of other microbiome members are yet to be revealed.

Our current ‘coral projects’ investigate the ecology and functioning of the coral metaorganism, including the host, the microalgal symbionts, and specifically, the associated bacteria. Our central research goal aims to track down how the coral host and microbial associates interact with each other and with human-made environmental change.

Importantly, during times of rapid climate change, it is a compelling goal to elucidate whether beneficial bacterial species or consortia (aka probiotics)  can  promote coral climate resilience by aiding corals to rapidly acclimatize to the ongoing environmental change.

Selected publications

Roik A., Ziegler M., Voolstra C.R. (2019) Physicochemical Dynamics, Microbial Community Patterns, and Reef Growth in Coral Reefs of the Central Red Sea. In: Rasul N., Stewart I. (eds) Oceanographic and Biological Aspects of the Red Sea. Springer Oceanography. Springer, Cham, DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-99417-8_22

Roik A, Röthig T, Pogoreutz C, Saderne V, Voolstra CR (2018) Coral reef carbonate budgets and ecological drivers in the central Red Sea – a naturally high temperature and high total alkalinity environment. Biogeosciences 15:6277–6296

Monroe AA, Ziegler M, Roik A, Röthig T, Hardenstine RS, Emms MA, Jensen T, Voolstra CR, Berumen ML (2018) In situ observations of coral bleaching in the central Saudi Arabian Red Sea during the 2015/2016 global coral bleaching event. PLoS ONE 13:e0195814

Röthig T, Roik A, Yum LK, Voolstra CR (2017) Distinct Bacterial Microbiomes Associate with the Deep-Sea Coral Eguchipsammia fistula from the Red Sea and from Aquaria Settings. Front Mar Sci 4: fmars.2017.00259

Roik A, Röthig T, Roder C, Ziegler M, Kremb SG, Voolstra CR (2016) Year-Long monitoring of physico-chemical and biological variables provide a comparative baseline of coral reef functioning in the central Red Sea. PLoS ONE 11(11): e0163939. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0163939


"The role of the bacterial microbiome in acclimatization and resilience of reef‐building corals" (CP1782)

by the Cluster of Excellence ‘The Future Ocean’ (1.11.2017-31.10.2019)


Other marine and none marine holobionts

Marine animals and algae/plants are in constant contact with a vast number of highly diverse microbes in their environment. Their innate immune system provides them with a means of differentiating between microorganisms, whether these are symbiotic, commensal or pathogenic in nature. Marine holobionts are ideal models for examining prokaryote-eukaryote interactions. We transfer our methods and concepts to other marine host-microbe systems in close collaboration with our national and international partners.

Selected References

Johnke J, Fraune S, Bosch TCG, Hentschel U, Schulenburg H (2020) Bdellovibrio and like organisms are predictors of microbiome diversity in distinct host groups. Microb Ecol

Rausch P, Rühlemann M, Hermes BM, Doms S, Dagan T, Dierking K, Domin H, Fraune S, von Frieling J, Hentschel U, Heinsen FA, Höppner M, Jahn MT, Jaspers C, Kissoyan KAB, Langfeldt D, Rehman A, Reusch TBH, Roeder T, Schmitz RA, Schulenburg H, Soluch R, Sommer F, Stukenbrock E, Weiland-Bräuer N, Rosenstiel P, Franke A, Bosch T, Baines JF (2019). Comparative analysis of amplicon and metagenomic sequencing methods reveals key features in the evolution of animal metaorganisms.Microbiome 7:133. doi: 10.1186/s40168-019-0743-1

Hildebrand F, Silva L, Blasche S, Jahn MT, Gossmann T, Heuerta-Cepas J, Hercog R, Luetge M, Bahram M, Pryszlak A, Alves R, Waszak S, Zhu A, Ye L, Costea P, Aalvink S, Belzer C, Forslund S, Sunagawa S, Hentschel U, Merten C, Patil K, Benes V, Bork P (2019) Antibiotics-induced monodominance of a novel gut bacterial order. Gut 0:1–10. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2018-317715

Domin H, Zurita-Gutiérrez YH, Scotti M, Buttlar J, Hentschel U, Fraune S.  (2018) Predicted bacterial interactions affect in vivo microbial colonization dynamics in Nematostella.Front Microbiol. 2018 Apr 24;9:728. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2018.00728. eCollection 2018.

Faist H, Keller A, Hentschel U, Deeken R (2016) Grapevine (Vitis vinifera) Crown Galls Host Distinct Microbiota.Appl Environ Microbiol.; 82(18): 5542–5552. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01131-16