Untapped sponge microbiomes: structure specificity at host order and family levels

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Sponges are complex holobionts in which the structure of the microbiome has seldom been characterized above the host species level. The hypothesis tested in this study is that the structure of the sponge microbiomes is specific to the host at the order and family levels. This was done by using 33 sponge species belonging to 19 families representing five orders. A combination of three primer sets covering the V1-V8 regions of the 16S rRNA gene provided a more comprehensive coverage of the microbiomes. Both the diversity and structure of sponge microbiomes were demonstrated to be highly specific to the host phylogeny at the order and family levels. There are always dominant operational taxonomic units (OTUs) (relative abundance >1%) shared between microbial communities of sponges within the same family or order, but these shared OTUs showed high levels of dissimilarity between different sponge families and orders. The unique OTUs for a particular sponge family or order could be regarded as their 'signature identity'. 70%-87% of these unique OTUs (class level) are unaffiliated and represent a vast resource of untapped microbiota. This study contributes to a deeper understanding on the concept of host-specificity of sponge microbiomes and highlights a hidden reservoir of sponge-associated microbial resources.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberfiz136
Number of pages16
JournalFEMS microbiology ecology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2019


  • 16S rRNA gene
  • amplicon sequencing
  • microbiome
  • multi-primer
  • sponge (Porifera)
  • Adelaide


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