Microbial ecology of corals, sponges, and algae in mesophotic coral environments


  • Editor: Ian Head

Correspondence: Julie B. Olson, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487, USA. Tel.: +1 205 348 2633; fax: +1 205 348 1786; e-mail: jolson@bama.ua.edu


Mesophotic coral ecosystems that occur at depths from 30 to 200 m have historically been understudied and yet appear to support a diverse biological community. The microbiology of these systems is particularly poorly understood, especially with regard to the communities associated with corals, sponges, and algae. This lack of information is partly due to the problems associated with gaining access to these environments and poor reproducibility across sampling methods. To summarize what is known about the microbiology of these ecosystems and to highlight areas where research is urgently needed, an overview of the current state of knowledge is presented. Emphasis is placed on the characterization of microbial populations, both prokaryotic and eukaryotic, associated with corals, sponges, and algae and the factors that influence microbial community structure. In topic areas where virtually nothing is known from mesophotic environments, the knowledge pertaining to shallow-water ecosystems is summarized to provide a starting point for a discussion on what might be expected in the mesophotic zone.