Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Frontiers in Microbiology



First page number:


Last page number:



The Atlantic horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) is a common marine aquarium species and model organism for research. There is potential monetary and conservation value in developing a stable captive population of horseshoe crabs, however, one major impediment to achieving captivity is a lack of knowledge regarding captive diseases. We utilized 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing to track changes in the microbiomes of four body locations in three wild-caught (tracked over 14 months in captivity) and three tank-acclimated (>2 years in captivity) adult L. polyphemus in a touch tank at Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, NV. The wild population hosted diverse and distinct microbiomes on the carapace (737 amplicon sequence variants or ASVs), cloaca (1078 ASVs), gills (941 ASVs), and oral cavity (1193 ASVs), which were dominated by classes Gammaproteobacteria, Bacteroidia, and Alphaproteobacteria. A rapid decline in richness across all body locations was observed within 1 month of captivity, with tank-acclimated (>2 years) animals having 60%) and Pseudomonas (>20%), both of which are known opportunistic pathogens of aquatic animals and can express chitinases, providing a plausible mechanism for the development of the carapace lesion pathology observed in this and other studies. These results provide an important baseline on the microbiomes of both wild and tank-acclimated horseshoe crabs and underscore the need to continue to investigate how native microbial populations may protect animals from pathogens.


16S rRNA; Aquarium; Captivity; Bacteria; Marine; Holobiont


Environmental Microbiology and Microbial Ecology | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology

File Format


File Size

2.131 KB



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

UNLV article access

Search your library