Structure and membership of gut microbial communities in multiple fish cryptic species under potential migratory effects

Sci Rep. 2020 May 5;10(1):7547. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-64570-8.


The animal gut microbiota evolves quickly towards a complex community and plays crucial roles in its host's health and development. Factors such as host genetics and environmental changes are regarded as important for controlling the dynamics of animal gut microbiota. Migratory animals are an important group for studying how these factors influence gut microbiota because they experience strong environmental perturbations during migration. The commercially important grey mullet, Mugil cephalus, is a cosmopolitan species complex that display reproductive migration behaviour. There are three cryptic species of M. cephalus fish distributed across the Northwest Pacific, and their spawning sites overlap in the Taiwan Strait. This extraordinary natural occurrence makes the grey mullet an ideal model organism for exploring the nature of wild animal-gut microbiota relationships and interactions. This study investigates the diversity and structure of the gut microbial community in three cryptic M. cephalus species using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing. Gut microbial compositions from adult and juvenile fish samples were analysed. Our results indicate that gut microbial communities within the grey mullet share a core microbiome dominated by Proteobacteria, Firmicutes and Actinobacteria. However, the structures of gut microbial communities were more distinct between adult mullet groups than they were between juvenile ones. Intriguingly, we found that adult fish that migrate to different geographical tracts harbour gut microbiota similar to historical records of seawater microflora, along their respective migration routes. This observation provides new insights into the interaction between aquatic animal gut microbial communities and the environments along their hosts' migratory routes, and thus warrants future study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actinobacteria / genetics
  • Algorithms
  • Animal Migration
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Female
  • Firmicutes / genetics
  • Fishes / microbiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Geography
  • Phylogeny
  • Proteobacteria / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Seawater
  • Taiwan


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S