Rapid establishment of the non-indigenous ascidian Styela plicata and its associated bacteria in marinas and fishing harbors along the Mediterranean coast of Israel

L. Novak, S. López-Legentil, E. Sieradzki, N. Shenkar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Styela plicata (Lesueur, 1823) (Tunicata; Stolidobranchia; Styelidae) is a solitary ascidian with a global distribution. Until recently it had not been observed along the Mediterranean coast of Israel, but is now to be found in many harbors attached to suspended ropes and other artificial structures. In order to monitor the populations of S. plicata, we surveyed eight harbors along the Israeli Mediterranean coast. Our findings demonstrate that the condition and level of maintenance of each harbor significantly affect the presence of S. plicata. We also characterized the microbial communities in the tunic of three individuals using 16S rRNA gene tag pyrosequencing and compared them to those in the surrounding seawater, in order to determine whether their symbiotic bacteria contribute to the successful establishment of this ascidian species. We found 15 bacterial phyla in total, of which 14 were present in the animal hosts; six were present in all of the individuals and four in two of them. Three of the 15 phyla observed were absent in the surrounding seawater. The high variability in the microbial communities among the three hosts suggests a mechanism of horizontal transmission and may play a contributing role in the successful invasion of new and less tolerant niches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)324-331
Number of pages8
JournalMediterranean Marine Science
Volume18
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2017

Keywords

  • Ascidians
  • Marine bioinvasions
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • Microbial diversity

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