, Volume 687, Issue 1, pp 341–351 | Cite as

Deep sequencing reveals diversity and community structure of complex microbiota in five Mediterranean sponges

  • Susanne Schmitt
  • Ute Hentschel
  • Michael W. Taylor


Marine sponges harbor dense microbial communities of exceptionally high diversity. Despite the complexity of sponge microbiota, microbial communities in different sponges seem to be remarkably similar. In this study, we used a subset of a previously established 454 amplicon pyrosequencing dataset (Schmitt and Taylor, unpublished data). Five Mediterranean sponges were chosen including the model sponge Aplysina aerophoba to determine the extent of uniformity by defining (i) the core microbial community, consisting of bacteria found in all sponges, (ii) the variable microbial community, consisting of bacteria found in 2–4 sponges, and (iii) the species-specific community, consisting of bacteria found in only one sponge. Using the enormous sequencing depth of pyrosequencing the diversity in each of the five sponges was extended to up to 15 different bacterial phyla per sponge with Proteobacteria and Chloroflexi being most diverse in each of the five sponges. Similarity comparison of bacteria on phylum and phylotype level revealed most similar communities in A. aerophoba and A. cavernicola and the most dissimilar community in Pseudocorticium jarrei. A surprising minimal core bacterial community was found when distribution of 97% operational taxonomic units (OTUs) was analyzed. Core, variable, and species-specific communities were comprised of 2, 26, and 72% of all OTUs, respectively. This indicates that each sponge contains a large set of unique bacteria and shares only few bacteria with other sponges. However, host species-specific bacteria are probably still closely related to each other explaining the observed similarity among bacterial communities in sponges.


454 amplicon pyrosequencing Bacterial symbiont Core microbiota Microbial diversity Sponge Vertical transmission 



Research was supported by German Research Foundation (DFG) grants Schm2559/1-1 and 2-1 and a stipend in the program “Chancengleichheit” of the University of Wuerzburg to SS, DFG grant HE3299/1-3 to UH and University of Auckland FRDF grants 3609286 and 3622989 to MWT.

Supplementary material

10750_2011_799_MOESM1_ESM.xls (46 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLS 45 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susanne Schmitt
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ute Hentschel
    • 1
  • Michael W. Taylor
    • 2
  1. 1.Julius-von-Sachs Institute for Biological SciencesUniversity of WuerzburgWuerzburgGermany
  2. 2.Centre for Microbial Innovation, School of Biological SciencesUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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