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Keywords:

  • cold-water coral;
  • deep sea;
  • bacteria;
  • mycoplasma

Abstract

Gorgonians make up the majority of corals in the Aleutian archipelago and provide critical fish habitat in areas of economically important fisheries. The microbial ecology of the deep-sea gorgonian corals Paragorgea arborea, Plumarella superba, and Cryogorgia koolsae was examined with culture-based and 16S rRNA gene-based techniques. Six coral colonies (two per species) were collected. Samples from all corals were cultured, and clone libraries were constructed from P. superba and C. koolsae. Cultured bacteria were dominated by the Gammaproteobacteria, especially Vibrionaceae, with other phyla comprising <6% of the isolates. The clone libraries showed dramatically different bacterial communities between corals of the same species collected at different sites, with no clear pattern of conserved bacterial consortia. Two of the clone libraries (one from each coral species) were dominated by Tenericutes, with Alphaproteobacteria dominating the remaining sequences. The other libraries were more diverse and had a more even distribution of bacterial phyla, showing more similarity between genera than within coral species. Here we report the first microbiological characterization of P. arborea, P. superba, and C. koolsae.