Microbial Ecology

, Volume 78, Issue 1, pp 170–184 | Cite as

Core and Dynamic Microbial Communities of Two Invasive Ascidians: Can Host–Symbiont Dynamics Plasticity Affect Invasion Capacity?

  • Hila Dror
  • Lion Novak
  • James S. Evans
  • Susanna López-Legentil
  • Noa ShenkarEmail author
Invertebrate Microbiology


Ascidians (Chordata, Ascidiacea) are considered to be prominent marine invaders, able to tolerate highly polluted environments and fluctuations in salinity and temperature. Here, we examined the seasonal and spatial dynamics of the microbial communities in the inner-tunic of two invasive ascidians, Styela plicata (Lesueur 1823) and Herdmania momus (Savigny 1816), in order to investigate the changes that occur in the microbiome of non-indigenous ascidians in different environments. Microbial communities were characterized using next-generation sequencing of partial (V4) 16S rRNA gene sequences. A clear differentiation between the ascidian-associated microbiome and bacterioplankton was observed, and two distinct sets of operational taxonomic units (OTUs), one core and the other dynamic, were recovered from both species. The relative abundance of the dynamic OTUs in H. momus was higher than in S. plicata, for which core OTU structure was maintained independently of location. Ten and seventeen core OTUs were identified in S. plicata and H. momus, respectively, including taxa with reported capabilities of carbon fixing, ammonia oxidization, denitrification, and heavy-metal processing. The ascidian-sourced dynamic OTUs clustered in response to site and season but significantly differed from the bacterioplankton community structure. These findings suggest that the associations between invasive ascidians and their symbionts may enhance host functionality while maintaining host adaptability to changing environmental conditions.


Introduced species Microbiome Tunicate Lessepsian invasion Herdmania momus Styela plicata 



We thank L. Reshef, P. Erwin, and E. Sieradzki for their comments and advice. We thank S. Meiri and G. Vered for technical assistance and N. Paz for editorial assistance.

Author Contributions

H.D., N.S. and S.L.L. designed this study. H.D., L.N., and J.S.E. collected samples. J.S.E. assisted in sequence processing. H.D. conducted the analyses and led the writing of the manuscript. All authors contributed critically to all drafts and gave final approval for publication.

Funding Information

Funding for this project was provided by the US-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF), Jerusalem, Israel (number 2014025), to S.L.L. and N.S.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Supplementary material

248_2018_1276_MOESM1_ESM.docx (327 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 326 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Zoology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life SciencesTel-Aviv UniversityTel-AvivIsrael
  2. 2.Department of Biology and Marine Biology, Center for Marine ScienceUniversity of North Carolina WilmingtonWilmingtonUSA
  3. 3.The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, Israel National Center for Biodiversity StudiesTel-Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael

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