The recognition that all higher organisms live in symbiotic association with microorganisms has opened new perspectives in biology. Animals and humans alike are now considered as complex ecosystems each consisting of the host and its associated microbial symbionts, which together serve as functional units of selection. While the fundamental relevance of symbioses in various ecological contexts is undebated, much remains to be learned about how and to what extent the partners work together at the mechanistic and cellular level. The overall aim of my lab is to elucidate functional understanding of the physiology, metabolism and mechanisms of interaction between marine sponges and their symbiotic microbial consortia. These basal metazoan organisms have the potential to teach us about ancient evolutionarily principles of host-microbe interactions. Collectively, our research will expose not just biodiversity aspects of sponge-microbe symbioses but more fundamentally how they function, evolve, and influence marine habitats.
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