Metagenomic Shotgun Analyses Reveal Complex Patterns of Intra- and Interspecific Variation in the Intestinal Microbiomes of Codfishes

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2020 Mar 2;86(6):e02788-19. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02788-19. Print 2020 Mar 2.


The relative importance of host-specific selection or environmental factors in determining the composition of the intestinal microbiome in wild vertebrates remains poorly understood. Here, we used metagenomic shotgun sequencing of individual specimens to compare the levels of intra- and interspecific variation of intestinal microbiome communities in two ecotypes (NEAC and NCC) of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) that have distinct behavior and habitats and three Gadidae species that occupy a range of ecological niches. Interestingly, we found significantly diverged microbiomes among the two Atlantic cod ecotypes. Interspecific patterns of variation are more variable, with significantly diverged communities for most species' comparisons, apart from the comparison between coastal cod (NCC) and Norway pout (Trisopterus esmarkii), whose community compositions are not significantly diverged. The absence of consistent species-specific microbiomes suggests that external environmental factors, such as temperature, diet, or a combination thereof, comprise major drivers of the intestinal community composition of codfishes.IMPORTANCE The composition of the intestinal microbial community associated with teleost fish is influenced by a diversity of factors, ranging from internal factors (such as host-specific selection) to external factors (such as niche occupation). These factors are often difficult to separate, as differences in niche occupation (e.g., diet, temperature, or salinity) may correlate with distinct evolutionary trajectories. Here, we investigate four gadoid species with contrasting levels of evolutionary separation and niche occupation. Using metagenomic shotgun sequencing, we observed distinct microbiomes among two Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) ecotypes (NEAC and NCC) with distinct behavior and habitats. In contrast, interspecific patterns of variation were more variable. For instance, we did not observe interspecific differentiation between the microbiomes of coastal cod (NCC) and Norway pout (Trisopterus esmarkii), whose lineages underwent evolutionary separation over 20 million years ago. The observed pattern of microbiome variation in these gadoid species is therefore most parsimoniously explained by differences in niche occupation.

Keywords: Atlantic cod; Gadus morhua; codfishes; intestinal microbiome; metagenomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Ecotype*
  • Female
  • Gadiformes / microbiology*
  • Gadus morhua / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / genetics*
  • Male
  • Metagenome*
  • Norway