Influence of environmental variation on symbiotic bacterial communities of two temperate sponges

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Sponges are an important component of temperate subtidal marine ecosystems, with a range of important functional roles and extensive symbiotic relationships with microorganisms. However, much remains unknown about their relationships with these symbiotic microorganisms, and specifically, the role that these symbionts play in sponge physiology, feeding and adaptation to local environmental conditions. Changes in environmental factors may alter relationships between sponges and their symbionts, which could conceivably influence the abundance and distribution patterns of some temperate sponge species. Here, we analyzed the effect of transplantation of sponges between different habitats to test the effect of changes in environmental conditions on the stability of the bacterial communities in specimens of Tethya bergquistae and Ecionemia alata, based on pyrosequencing of amplified 16S rRNA genes. Bacterial communities differed markedly between the two host species. While some morphological changes were observed in transplanted sponges, transplantation had little overall effect on sponge-associated bacterial communities at either phylum or 97%-OTU level. Our results show the importance of host species and also the stability of sponge-associated bacterial communities under environmental variation.

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