Coral bleaching linked to climate change has generated interest in the response of coral’s bacterial microbiome to thermal stress. The sea anemone, Exaiptasia diaphana
, is a popular coral model, but the response of its bacteria to thermal stress has been barely explored. To address this, we compared the bacterial communities of Great Barrier Reef (GBR) E. diaphana
maintained at 26 °C or exposed to increasing temperature (26–33 °C) over two weeks. Communities were analyzed by metabarcoding of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene. Bleaching and Symbiodiniaceae health were assessed by Symbiodiniaceae cell density and dark-adapted quantum yield (Fv
), respectively. Significant bleaching and reductions in Fv
occurred in the heat-treated anemones above 29 °C. Overall declines in bacterial alpha diversity in all anemones were also observed. Signs of bacterial change emerged above 31 °C. Some initial outcomes may have been influenced by relocation or starvation, but collectively, the bacterial community and taxa-level data suggested that heat was the primary driver of change above 32 °C. Six bacterial indicator species were identified as potential biomarkers for thermal stress. We conclude that the bacterial microbiome of GBR E. diaphana
is generally stable until a thermal threshold is surpassed, after which significant changes occur.
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