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Date of Award

Spring 4-9-2018

Degree Type

Thesis

Department

Biology

Abstract

In April 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform released oil into the Gulf of Mexico. While the biodegradation of these hydrocarbons is a process that is carried out by oil degrading bacteria, little is known about the effects of oil on the microbiome of organisms that inhabit the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Thus, the present study has investigated the state of the microbiome of three species of midwater decapod crustaceans Acanthephyra purpurea and Systellaspis debilis (family Oplophoridae), and Sergia robusta (family Sergestidae), in the time preceding the spill in 2009 and 2010, immediately following the spill, and 5 years after. Gills were chosen as target organs for their crucial role in the organisms’ immune systems, and mouthparts were included as control. PCR was conducted to amplify the 16S rDNA genes. PCR products were then sequenced using the Illumina MiSeq platform. Analyses were conducted using Qiime bioinformatics packages to infer potential roles played by the crustacean microbiomes and elucidate if there were any changes in the microbial communities before and after the spill. Results showed the dominant microbial orders found in the gill tissue of all three species were composed of hydrocarbon-degrading microbial taxa, or taxa that can participate in degradation of hydrocarbons. More samples from 2011 will be processed to assess whether difference in most abundant bacteria found in a time period could be due to the oil spill.

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