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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2013 Sep;85(3):483-94. doi: 10.1111/1574-6941.12136. Epub 2013 May 13.

Diversity of the skin microbiota of fishes: evidence for host species specificity.

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Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures, Aquatic Microbiology Laboratory, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849, USA.


Skin microbiota of Gulf of Mexico fishes were investigated by ribosomal internal spacer analysis (RISA) and 16S rRNA gene sequencing. A total of 102 fish specimens representing six species (Mugil cephalus, Lutjanus campechanus, Cynoscion nebulosus, Cynoscion arenarius, Micropogonias undulatus, and Lagodon rhomboides) were sampled at regular intervals throughout a year. The skin microbiota from each individual fish was analyzed by RISA and produced complex profiles with 23 bands on average. Similarities between RISA profiles ranged from 97.5% to 4.0%. At 70% similarity, 11 clusters were defined, each grouping individuals from the same fish species. Multidimensional scaling and analysis of similarity correlated the RISA-defined clusters with geographic locality, date, and fish species. Global R values indicated that fish species was the most indicative variable for group separation. Analysis of 16S rRNA gene sequences (from pooled samples of 10 individual fish for each fish species) showed that the Proteobacteria was the predominant phylum in skin microbiota, followed by the Firmicutes and the Actinobacteria. The distribution and abundance of bacterial sequences were different among all species analyzed. Aeribacillus was found in all fish species representing 19% of all clones sequenced, while some genera were fish species-specific (Neorickettsia in M. cephalus and Microbacterium in L. campechanus). Our data provide evidence for the existence of specific skin microbiota associated with particular fish species.


16S rRNA gene; Gulf of Mexico; RISA; fish; host specificity; microbiota; skin

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