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Tara Pacific Expedition Project Team Finds High Diversity Within Coral Reef Microbiome

An international team of researchers has uncovered a high level of diversity within the Pacific coral reef microbiome, which they say will inform conservation efforts. In a suite of papers appearing in Nature Communications, Scientific Data, Genome Biology, and Communications Biology, the researchers describe findings from the Tara Pacific Expedition project, which launched in 2016 to explore the biodiversity of coral reefs in the face of climate change. One Nature Communications paper, for instance, describes the collection of three coral morphotypes, fish species, and plankton communities samples from nearly 100 reefs from 32 islands. The ensuing analysis of more than 5,000 microbiomes found a high level of species richness — 500,000 bacterial and archaeal 16S rDNA amplicon sequence variants were found — that suggests that the number of global microbes has been an undercount. A second Nature Communications paper, meanwhile, looks into the relationship between changes in water temperature and telomere length among reef-building coral, finding a long-lived species is unaffected by seasonal changes in temperature but is affected by unusual weather patterns while the other, short-lived species is more affected by seasonal changes.