Just like the human microbiome, corals harbor a community of bacteria and other microbes that perform key functions and can play a role in protecting the coral or increasing susceptibility to disease. To learn more about diseases that are impacting coral reefs worldwide, it is important to understand how these microbial communities come to inhabit coral and what factors determine the composition of microbes. To answer these questions, MSC PhD student Courtney Dunphy examined the natural fluctuations of Caribbean coral microbiomes over space and time. The results, recently published in the journal Scientific Reports illustrated that the coral animal is the most influential factor in structuring the microbial communities. In other words, corals of the same species usually had similar microbial communities. These findings lay the groundwork for future studies investigating the roles that these diverse microbial communities play in coral disease.
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