Bacterial community assembly in Atlantic cod larvae (Gadus morhua): contributions of ecological processes and metacommunity structure

FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2020 Sep 1;96(9):fiaa163. doi: 10.1093/femsec/fiaa163.


Many studies demonstrate the importance of the commensal microbiomes to animal health and development. However, the initial community assembly process is poorly understood. It is unclear to what extent the hosts select for their commensal microbiota, whether stochastic processes contribute, and how environmental conditions affect the community assembly. We investigated community assembly in Atlantic cod larvae exposed to distinct microbial metacommunities. We aimed to quantify ecological processes influencing community assembly in cod larvae and to elucidate the complex relationship between the bacteria of the environment and the fish. Selection within the fish was the major determinant for community assembly, but drift resulted in inter-individual variation. The environmental bacterial communities were highly dissimilar from those associated with the fish. Still, differences in the environmental bacterial communities strongly influenced the fish communities. The most striking difference was an excessive dominance of a single OTU (Arcobacter) for larvae reared in two of the three systems. These larvae were exposed to environments with higher fractions of opportunistic bacteria, and we hypothesise that detrimental host-microbe interactions might have made the fish susceptible to Arcobacter colonisation. Despite strong selection within the host, this points to a possibility to steer the metacommunity towards mutualistic host-microbe interactions and improved fish health and survival.

Keywords: Atlantic cod; community assembly; ecological processes; metacommunity; microbial ecology; microbiota.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Gadus morhua*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Larva
  • Microbiota*