Characterisation of the bacteria associated with barnacle, Balanus amphitrite, shell and their role in gregarious settlement of cypris larvae
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The acorn barnacle Balanus amphitrite (syn. Amphibalanus amphitrite) is a model organism to investigate pelago-benthic transitions in marine invertebrates. A driver for larval settlement in this organism is the need to attach close to conspecifics, to allow reproduction to take place. Adult barnacles are covered by microbial biofilms and the contribution of these biofilms to conspecific recognition is not fully understood. Little information is available on microbial communities associated with B. amphitrite. We compared biofilm communities from the barnacle shell surface with those from the surrounding rocks using the culture-independent methods of quantitative PCR and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis. Quantification of the relative abundances of higher bacterial taxa showed that barnacles hosted a greater proportion of α-Proteobacteria compared to rock-associated biofilms (p is less than 0.01). Differences in relative abundances of other taxa were not observed but DGGE profiling suggested that differences were present at lower taxonomic levels. The capacity of these communities to influence larval settlement was assessed by growing multispecies biofilms on artificial medium, obtained by extracting nutrients from adult barnacles. Biofilms composed of shell-associated bacteria were capable of promoting conspecific settlement by 67% compared to control surfaces (p is less than 0.05), while rock-associated communities showed contrasting effects. A taxonomic comparison of settlement-stimulating and -inhibiting bacteria was performed by DGGE and band sequencing. All partial 16S rRNA genes sequenced were similar to members of the Vibrio and Pseudoalteromonas genera, suggesting that larvae can detect and respond to variations in the composition of microbial biofilms at low taxonomic levels. Our results indicate that barnacle larvae may be able to detect parentally-associated biofilms and use this information to settle close to members of its own species.
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