MICROBIOME ANALYSIS OF THREE MIGRATORY SHARK SPECIES OFF THE SOUTHEASTERN US
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Quintrell, Anna Nicole
The bacteria living in and on an organism are essential for development, immunity, and nutrition; yet, this has been studied sparingly in most fishes, particularly sharks. The importance of understanding the microbiome of sharks applies not only to the health of an individual but also to the quality of the surrounding marine environment in which they exist. This interest has increased given the biological and ecological significance of these species. The primary aim of our study was to characterize the bacterial communities in the mouth, gills, epidermal tissue, and cloaca of three shark species: bonnethead (Sphyrna tiburo), blacknose shark (Carcharhinus acronotus), and finetooth shark (Carcharhinus isodon). Sharks exhibited species-specific microbial communities distinct from the surrounding water, predominantly composed of Gammaproteobacteria, Alphaproteobacteria, Cyanophyceae, Bacteroidia, and Verrucomicrobiae. Finetooth sharks displayed the greatest microbial diversity and had a higher abundance of Actinobacteria, Acidimicrobiia, Desulfobacteria, Desulfobulbia, and Planctomycetes. Bonnetheads exhibited the lowest diversity, suggesting variations in ecological niches and community structures. Dermal tissue supported the most diverse communities, whereas the cloaca displayed the least, indicating differences in ecological niches and community structures both between species and across various anatomical locations. Moreover, the microbial community of the cloaca was distinct from other anatomical sites. Understanding bacterial communities across the shark microbiome is crucial for predicting responses to a changing ocean and managing healthy populations in captivity. This study establishes a foundation for future research into shark health.