Lophelia microbiology, a global picture
Lophelia is a globally distributed coral but so far microbiological studies have been limited to a few places in the Atlantic: Norwegian fjords, the Mediterranean Sea, Rockall Bank (northwest of the United Kingdom) and the Gulf of Mexico. These studies have shown that there is variability in the Lophelia-associated bacterial communities; variation exists between coral’s colour morphs (red/orange versus white), and both within and between sampling locations. This diversity may be due to diet or other environmental factors.
However, underlying the spatial variability observed, there are Lophelia-specific bacterial symbionts. Identical sequences for two bacterial types have been found associated with corals sampled in both the Gulf of Mexico and a Norwegian fjord. We don’t know what these bacterial groups do for the coral (or vice versa), but there must be a significant reason for them to be conserved across the Atlantic ocean basin. Loss of these symbionts may be a sign of stress.
Bacterial groups associated with Lophelia include some types commonly found on shallow-water corals. There are also psychrophiles, “cold-loving” bacteria that are usually found in polar waters.