Pyrosequencing Characterization of the Microbiota from Atlantic Intertidal Marine Sponges Reveals High Microbial Diversity and the Lack of Co-Occurrence Patterns

Abstract

<div><p>Sponges are ancient metazoans that host diverse and complex microbial communities. Sponge-associated microbial diversity has been studied from wide oceans across the globe, particularly in subtidal regions, but the microbial communities from intertidal sponges have remained mostly unexplored. Here we used pyrosequencing to characterize the microbial communities in 12 different co-occurring intertidal marine sponge species sampled from the Atlantic coast, revealing a total of 686 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) at 97% sequence similarity. Taxonomic assignment of 16S ribosomal RNA tag sequences estimated altogether 26 microbial groups, represented by bacterial (75.5%) and archaeal (22%) domains. <i>Proteobacteria</i> (43.4%) and <i>Crenarchaeota</i> (20.6%) were the most dominant microbial groups detected in all the 12 marine sponge species and ambient seawater. The <i>Crenarchaeota</i> microbes detected in three Atlantic Ocean sponges had a close similarity with <i>Crenarchaeota</i> from geographically separated subtidal Red Sea sponges. Our study showed that most of the microbial communities observed in sponges (73%) were also found in the surrounding ambient seawater suggesting possible environmental acquisition and/or horizontal transfer of microbes. Beyond the microbial diversity and community structure assessments (NMDS, ADONIS, ANOSIM), we explored the interactions between the microbial communities coexisting in sponges using the checkerboard score (C-score). Analyses of the microbial association pattern (co-occurrence) among intertidal sympatric sponges revealed the random association of microbes, favoring the hypothesis that the sponge-inhabiting microbes are recruited from the habitat mostly by chance or influenced by environmental factors to benefit the hosts.</p></div

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