Michael Sweet (University of Derby), 24 May 2017:

Introducing the coral holobiont and exploring the role microbes play in coral health and disease

The number of ecophysiological studies involving reef corals has increased markedly over the last 20 years, driven primarily by the concern over the potential effects of anthropogenic change on coral communities. In particular, the evaluation of the effects of global climate change has prompted major research efforts into understanding the consequences of both rising seawater temperatures and ocean acidification on the physiology of corals. In recent years the recognition that corals harbour not only symbiotic algae but also a diverse microbial consortium, which may both influence and be influenced by the physiology of the animal host, has added an extra layer of complexity to this biological system known collectively as the 'coral holobiont'. Here we explore the wonderful world of the 'holobiont' and how understanding shifts in the microbiome can lead us to answer questions about the possible adaptability of corals in the face of climate change. We will also draw on lessons from previous work exploring the role of the 'pathobiome' (i.e. the microorganisms involved in diseases of corals) and see how using macro ecological modelling techniques we can start to break down the complexity of these communities in a bid to understand the role certain key members or core microbes play in regulating health and disease.