Jellyfish blooms are frequent and widespread in coastal areas worldwide, often associated with significant ecological and socio-economic consequences. Recent studies have also suggested cnidarian jellyfish may act as vectors of bacterial pathogens. The scyphomedusa Rhizostoma pulmo is an outbreak-forming jellyfish widely occurring across the Mediterranean basin. Using combination of culture-based approaches and a high-throughput amplicon sequencing (HTS), and based on available knowledge on a warm-affinity jellyfish-associated microbiome, we compared the microbial community associated with R. pulmo adult jellyfish in the Gulf of Taranto (Ionian Sea) between summer (July 2016) and winter (February 2017) sampling periods. The jellyfish-associated microbiota was investigated in three distinct compartments, namely umbrella, oral arms, and mucus secretion. Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Chlamydiae, Cyanobacteria, Deinococcus-Thermus, Firmicutes, Fusobacteria, Planctomycetes, Proteobacteria, Rhodothermaeota, Spirochaetes, Tenericutes, and Thaumarchaeota were the phyla isolated from all the three R. pulmo compartments in the sampling times. In particular, the main genera Mycoplasma and Spiroplasma, belonging to the class Mollicutes (phylum Tenericutes), have been identified in all the three jellyfish compartments. The taxonomic microbial data were coupled with metabolic profiles resulting from the utilization of 31 different carbon sources by the BIOLOG Eco-Plate system. Microorganisms associated with mucus are characterized by great diversity. The counts of culturable heterotrophic bacteria and potential metabolic activities are also remarkable. Results are discussed in terms of R. pulmo ecology, the potential health hazard for marine and human life as well as the potential biotechnological applications related to the associated microbiome.
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