Succession and colonization dynamics of endolithic phototrophs within intertidal carbonates

Daniel Roush, Ferran Garcia-Pichel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Photosynthetic endolithic communities are common in shallow marine carbonates, contributing significantly to their bioerosion. Cyanobacteria are well known from these settings, where a few are euendoliths, actively boring into the virgin substrate. Recently, anoxygenic phototrophs were reported as significant inhabitants of endolithic communities, but it is unknown if they are euendoliths or simply colonize available pore spaces secondarily. To answer this and to establish the dynamics of colonization, nonporous travertine tiles were anchored onto intertidal beach rock in Isla de Mona, Puerto Rico, and developing endolithic communities were examined with time, both molecularly and with photopigment biomarkers. By 9 months, while cyanobacterial biomass and diversity reached levels indistinguishable from those of nearby climax communities, anoxygenic phototrophs remained marginal, suggesting that they are secondary colonizers. Early in the colonization, a novel group of cyanobacteria (unknown boring cluster, UBC) without cultivated representatives, emerged as the most common euendolith, but by 6 months, canonical euendoliths such as Plectonema (Leptolyngbya) sp., Mastigocoleus sp., and Pleurocapsalean clades displaced UBC in dominance. Later, the proportion of euendolithic cyanobacterial biomass decreased, as nonboring endoliths outcompeted pioneers within the already excavated substrate. Our findings demonstrate that endolithic cyanobacterial succession within hard carbonates is complex but can attain maturity within a year’s time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number214
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2020


  • Anoxygenic phototroph
  • Bioerosion
  • Euendolith
  • Microbiome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Virology


Dive into the research topics of 'Succession and colonization dynamics of endolithic phototrophs within intertidal carbonates'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this