Successful larval settlement and recruitment by corals is critical for the survival of coral reef ecosystems. Several closely related strains of γ-proteobacteria have been identified as cues for coral larval settlement, but the inductive properties of other bacterial taxa naturally occurring in reef ecosystems have not yet been explored. In this study, we assayed bacterial strains representing taxonomic groups consistently detected in corals for their ability to influence larval settlement in the coral Porites astreoides. We identified one α-proteobacterial strain, Roseivivax sp. 46E8, which significantly increased larval settlement in P. astreoides. Logarithmic growth phase (log phase) cell cultures of Roseivivax sp. 46E8 and filtrates (0.22μm) from log phase Roseivivax sp. 46E8 cultures significantly increased settlement, suggesting that an extracellular settlement factor is produced during active growth phase. Filtrates from log phase cultures of two other bacterial isolates, Marinobacter sp. 46E3, and Cytophaga sp. 46B6, also significantly increased settlement, but the cell cultures themselves did not. Monospecific biofilms of the three strains did not result in significant increases in larval settlement. Organic and aqueous/methanol extracts of Roseivivax sp. 46E8 cultures did not affect larval settlement. Examination of filtrates from cell cultures showed that Roseivivax sp. 46E8 spontaneously generated virus-like particles in log and stationary phase growth. Though the mechanism of settlement enhancement by Roseivivax sp. 46E8 is not yet elucidated, our findings point to a new aspect of coral-Roseobacter interactions that should be further investigated, especially in naturally occurring, complex microbial biofilms on reef surfaces.
Sharp,K.H., Sneed, J.M., Ritchie, K.B., McDaniel, L., & Paul, V. J. (2015). Induction of larval settlement in the reef coral porites astreoides by a cultivated marine roseobacter strain. The Biological Bulletin 228, 98-107.