Environmental and biological factors driving mucosal-associated microbial communities in fish: applications to aquaculture and fisheries
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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Environmental and biological factors driving mucosal-associated microbial communities in fish: applications to aquaculture and fisheries

  • Author(s): Minich, Jeremiah
  • Advisor(s): Allen, Eric E.
  • Knight, Robin
  • et al.

The majority of vertebrate species diversity are within fish. Marine fish occupy a diverse array of ecological niches including a wide range of salinity tolerance, oxygen tolerance, temperature, depth, desiccation, and light. Fish also have adapted a range of biological traits including varying trophic level, morphology, swimming performance, and reproduction. The microbiome, the total aggregation of microscopic organisms including fungi, bacteria, archaea, and viruses in a specified environment, has largely been studied in mammals, particularly humans from which many associations to disease and health have been demonstrated. Fish microbiome research has largely focused on the gut environment from freshwater captive populations including farmed carp, tilapia, and catfish with marine studies primarily limited to food fish such as salmon. The goal of this dissertation was to develop and apply microbiome tools including sampling methods, DNA extraction, and library preparation (16S and WGSS, whole genome shotgun sequencing) which could be deployed to study a wide range of questions surrounding the parameters which influence the fish mucosal microbiome. With these set of tools, I have asked 1) how do intentional anthropogenic impacts to the water column (organic fertilizer) influence fish gastrointestinal communities, 2) how body sites differ in mucosal communities and changes across environmental gradients, 3) feasibility of developing a model marine fish to use in microbiome experiments to mimic tuna, 4) how the hatchery built environment influences fish mucosal microbiota. My dissertation can be summarized by several key findings. First, the mucosal environments of fish are highly differentiated in that the gill, skin, and digesta communities from the same species of fish are colonized by a large range of phylogenetically diverse microbes. In a freshwater system, organic inputs do influence the fish gut communities but indirectly through nutrient changes. In a wild marine fish, body sites are impacted by different environmental gradients with external body sites like the gill and skin most influenced by temporally variable environmental conditions including sea water temperature. In both freshwater and marine indoor hatchery systems, the built environment plays a critical role in influencing or being influenced by the fish mucosal microbiome.

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