The microbiome of the gastrointestinal tract of a range-shifting marine herbivorous fish
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Globally, marine species' distributions are being modified due to rising ocean temperatures. Increasing evidence suggests a circum-global pattern of poleward extensions in the distributions of many tropical herbivorous species, including the ecologically important rabbitfish Siganus fuscescens. Adaptability of a species to such new environments may be heavily influenced by the composition of their gastrointestinal microbe fauna, which is fundamentally important to animal health. Siganus fuscescens thus provides an opportunity to assess the stability of gastrointestinal microbes under varying environmental conditions. The gastrointestinal microbial communities of S. fuscescens were characterized over 2,000 km of Australia's western coast, from tropical to temperate waters, including near its current southern distributional limit. Sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene demonstrated that each population had a distinct hindgut microbial community, and yet, 20 OTUs occurred consistently in all samples. These OTUs were considered the 'core microbiome' and were highly abundant, composing between 31 and 54% of each population. Furthermore, levels of short chain fatty acids, an indicator of microbial fermentation activity, were similar among tropical and temperate locations. These data suggest that flexibility in the hindgut microbiome may play a role in enabling such herbivores to colonize new environments beyond their existing range.
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