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The Southern Bluefin Tuna Mucosal Microbiome Is Influenced by Husbandry Method, Net Pen Location, and Anti-parasite Treatment.


Aquaculture is the fastest growing primary industry worldwide. Marine finfish culture in open ocean net pens, or pontoons, is one of the largest growth areas and is currently the only way to rear high value fish such as bluefin tuna. Ranching involves catching wild juveniles, stocking in floating net pens and fattening for 4 to 8 months. Tuna experience several parasite-induced disease challenges in culture that can be mitigated by application of praziquantel (PZQ) as a therapeutic. In this study, we characterized the microbiome of ranched southern Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus maccoyii, across four anatomic sites (gill, skin, digesta, and anterior kidney) and evaluated environmental and pathological factors that influence microbiome composition, including the impact of PZQ treatment on microbiome stability. Southern bluefin tuna gill, skin, and digesta microbiome communities are unique and potentially influenced by husbandry practices, location of pontoon growout pens, and treatment with the antiparasitic PZQ. There was no significant relationship between the fish mucosal microbiome and incidence or abundance of adult blood fluke in the heart or fluke egg density in the gill. An enhanced understanding of microbiome diversity and function in high-value farmed fish species such as bluefin tuna is needed to optimize fish health and improve aquaculture yield. Comparison of the bluefin tuna microbiome to other fish species, including Seriola lalandi (yellowtail kingfish), a common farmed species from Australia, and Scomber japonicus (Pacific mackerel), a wild caught Scombrid relative of tuna, showed the two Scombrids had more similar microbial communities compared to other families. The finding that mucosal microbial communities are more similar in phylogenetically related fish species exposes an opportunity to develop mackerel as a model for tuna microbiome and parasite research.

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