[Coral-List] Thoughts on "Coral Holobiont" Phrase

nithy anand nithyrna at yahoo.co.in
Tue Jul 17 03:43:48 EDT 2007

Dear Coral Listers, 
  In response to the "coral holobiont"  issue I would like to add on about the coral hologenome theory (Which appeared in Nature Reveiws Microbiology, Volume , May 2007 by Eugene Rosenberg et al) , i.e: the host genome and the genome of all the symbiotic microorganisms as the hologenome. 
  This article deals about the associated microflora and disease fo corals. I felt that this reveiw is a milestone in coral microbiology research and another feather in the cap for Eugene Rosenberg's team.
  P. Nithyanand 

hodel at nova.edu wrote:
  Dear Coral-List:

Several months ago, I posted a message inquiring about the origin of 
the phrase “coral holobiont.” Although I did not find the first 
person to definitively use the phrase “coral holobiont,” one of the 
two responses I received suggested Dr. Lynn Margulis may have been the 
one to coin the word “holobiont” in her contributions to endosymbiotic 

A general definition of “holobiont” is a host-symbiont partnership 
(Santiago-Vázquez et al., 2006), though the word does not appear in 
online dictionaries or encyclopedias. Web searches for “holobiont” 
are very coral-centric. Perhaps our discipline has adopted and uses 
it more so than other biological disciplines? Coral papers have used 
the phrase “coral holobiont” to refer to the symbiosis between coral 
animals and zooxanthellae (e.g., Rowan, 1998). However, more recent 
papers use it to refer to the coral animal, zooxanthellae, and 
associated microbiota (i.e., bacteria, fungi and/or archaea) (e.g. 
Wegley et al., 2004). As research and technology have advanced our 
understanding of corals and associated organisms, it seems the 
definition has adapted accordingly.

The term also appeared in the title of one of the sessions in the last 
ASLO summer meeting in Honolulu (“Coral Holobiont, Coral Health and 
Disease, and Environmental Change”), supporting its growing use and 
popularity. Apologies if I have left out other significant 
contributions to this phrase.


Law, R. and U. Dieckmann. 1998. Symbiosis through exploitation and the 
merger of lineages in evolution. Proceedings of the Royal Society of 
London B, 265: 1245-1253.

Margulis, L. 1993. Symbiosis in cell evolution, 2nd edn. New York: W. 
H. Freeman.

Rowan, R. 1998. Diversity and ecology of zooxanthellae on coral reefs 
(review). Journal of Phycology, 34(3): 407-417.

Santiago-Vázquez, L. Z., L. K. Ranzer, and R. G. Kerr. 2006. 
Comparison of two total RNA extraction protocols using the marine 
gorgonian coral Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae and its symbiont 
Symbiodinium sp. Electronic Journal of Biotechnology [online], 5(9). 
Available from: 

Wegley, L., Y. Yu, M. Breitbart, V. Casas, D.I. Kline, and F. Rohwer. 
2004. Coral-associated Archaea. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 273: 

Erin C. Hodel, M.S.
Project Scientist 1
CSA International, Inc.
759 Parkway Street
Jupiter, Florida 33477
Tel: (561) 746-7946
Fax: (561) 747-2954
Email: ehodel at conshelf.com
Web: www.csaintl.com

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