HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

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Defense Date


Document Type

Thesis - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology


Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

Jose Lopez

Second Advisor

Patricia Blackwelder

Third Advisor

Scott Schatz


Previous studies have shown that bacteria associated with coral diseases are not found in the surrounding water column at detectable levels, yet at the same time, coral diseases are becoming more prominent. Sponges are coral reef residents, which expel filtered seawater that is practically sterile of microbes. Therefore sponges harbor very diverse and abundant microbial communities. This leads to the possibility that coral disease associated bacteria (CDAB) may be present within reef sponge microcosms. In order to identify internal microbes, nonculturable techniques including fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH), electron microscopy (EM) and 16S small subunit (SSU) rRNA gene cloning and sequencing were applied to local Florida reef sponges Agelas tubulata, Amphimedon compressa and Aplysina fistularis. This study targeted potential coral bacterial pathogens with FISH including Aurantimonas coralicida, Cytophaga sp., Desulfvibrio spp., Firmicutes, Serrattia marcescans, and Vibrio shiloni AK-1. All of the targeted coral disease associated bacteria were found within A. compressa and A. tubulata with FISH, but not in every individual. Differences in the spatial arrangement of targeted microbes were also seen within these sponge hosts. For instance, the two anaerobic bacteria Desulfovibrio spp. and S. marcescans were found in aggragates. In addition, electron microscopy revealed a higher abundance of bacteria in Applysina fistularis choanosome compared to the ectosome.


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