Research Summary: Sponge-Microbe Associations Survive High Nutrients and Temperatures

ABSTRACT

Coral reefs are under considerable pressure from global stressors such as elevated sea surface temperature and ocean acidification, as well as local factors including eutrophication and poor water quality. Marine sponges are diverse, abundant and ecologically important components of coral reefs in both coastal and offshore environments. Due to their exceptionally high filtration rates, sponges also form a crucial coupling point between benthic and pelagic habitats. Sponges harbor extensive microbial communities, with many microbial phylotypes found exclusively in sponges and thought to contribute to the health and survival of their hosts. Manipulative experiments were undertaken to ascertain the impact of elevated nutrients and seawater temperature on health and microbial community dynamics in the Great Barrier Reef sponge Rhopaloeides odorabile. R. odorabile exposed to elevated nutrient levels including 10 µmol/L total nitrogen at 31°C appeared visually similar to those maintained under ambient seawater conditions after 7 days. The symbiotic microbial community, analyzed by 16S rRNA gene pyrotag sequencing, was highly conserved for the duration of the experiment at both phylum and operational taxonomic unit (OTU) (97% sequence similarity) levels with 19 bacterial phyla and 1743 OTUs identified across all samples. Additionally, elevated nutrients and temperatures did not alter the archaeal associations in R. odorabile, with sequencing of 16S rRNA gene libraries revealing similar Thaumarchaeota diversity and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) revealing consistent amoA gene patterns, across all experimental treatments. A conserved eukaryotic community was also identified across all nutrient and temperature treatments by DGGE. The highly stable microbial associations indicate that R. odorabile symbionts are capable of withstanding short-term exposure to elevated nutrient concentrations and sub-lethal temperatures.

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Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 20-December-2012

Author(s): Simister R., Taylor M., Tsai P., Webster N.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0052220

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