Andrew H Loudon, Jungsoo Park, Laura Wegener Parfrey, 2023. Identifying the core microbiome of the sea star Pisaster ochraceus in the context of sea star wasting disease, FEMS Microbiology Ecology
Sea stars are keystone species and their mass die-offs due to sea star wasting disease (SSWD) impact marine communities and have fueled recent interest in the microbiome of sea stars. We assessed the host-specificity of the microbiome associated with three body regions of the sea star Pisaster ochraceus using 16S rRNA gene amplicon surveys of the bacterial communities living on and in Pisaster, their environment, and sympatric marine hosts across three populations in British Columbia, Canada. Overall, the bacterial communities on Pisaster are distinct from their environment and differ by both body region and geography. We identified core bacteria specifically associated with Pisaster across populations and nearly absent in other hosts and the environment. We then investigated the distribution of these core bacteria on SSWD-affected Pisaster from one BC site and by reanalyzing a study of SSWD on Pisaster from California. We find no differences in the distribution of core bacteria in early disease at either site and two core taxa differ in relative abundance in advanced disease in California. Using phylogenetic analyses, we find that most core bacteria have close relatives on other sea stars and marine animals, suggesting these clades have evolutionary adaptions to an animal-associated lifestyle.