Rädecker, Nils

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The coral holobiont highlights the dependence of cnidarian animal hosts on their associated microbes

2021, Pogoreutz, Claudia, Voolstra, Christian R., Rädecker, Nils, Weis, Virginia, Cárdenas, Anny, Raina, Jean-Baptiste

Coral reefs face unprecedented threats from anthropogenic environmental change. Climate change, pollution, and overfishing are affecting symbiotic interactions in the coral holobiont, which constitute the structural and functional foundation of reef ecosystems, eventually leading to the breakdown of the symbiosis and/or the onset of disease(s). The resulting dysbiosis of species relationships within the coral holobiont causes coral mortality at a global scale, accompanied by unprecedented loss of coral reef cover. In this chapter, we discuss the diversity of microbes (Symbiodiniaceae, bacteria, archaea, protists, fungi) associated with the coral host and what is known of their respective contribution to holobiont functioning. We highlight how the coral–dinoflagellate symbiosis forms the “engine” of the coral holobiont machinery, and we discuss the complexity of interactions that have shaped the ecological success of corals. We conclude that the coral holobiont is a prime example of how microbial associates shape the biology of their animal hosts and enable them to inhabit and even thrive in otherwise inhospitable environments. Given the current global decline of coral reef ecosystems, it is imperative to better understand the mechanisms governing coral holobiont function and health in order to develop strategies for mitigating the consequences of climate change and local anthropogenic stressors.