Marine Ecology

The holobiont concept

Co-cultivation of A. aerophoba sponge cells with GFP-tagged Vibrio sp.(Wehrl, Hentschel, unpublished)

We further study the host side of the interaction in order to eventually arrive at a holistic understanding of the sponge holobiont. Feeding studies have revealed that putative symbionts ingested by their hosts pass through the animal unprocessed, whereas seawater-derived bacteria are generally consumed. This implies that specific symbionts are recognized and ignored by the host sponge, or alternatively that they are not recognized at all, perhaps owing to the microorganisms shielding themselves from detection, for example by producing slime capsules. Efforts are on-going to develop a functional host model using primary sponge cells as well as to maintain and experimentally manipulate sponges in seawater aquaria at GEOMAR.


  1. Pita L, Fraune S, Hentschel U (2016) Emerging sponge models of animal-microbe symbioses. Frontiers in Microbiol: 7:2102. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.02102
  2. Ryu T, Seridi L, Moitinho-Silva L, Oates M, Liew YJ, Mavromatis C, Wang X, Haywood A, Lafi FF, Kupresanin M, Sougrat R, Alzahrani MA, Giles E, Ghosheh Y, Schunter C, Baumgarten S, Berumen ML, Gao X, Aranda M, Foret S, Gough J, Voolstra CR, Hentschel U, Ravasi T (2016) Hologenome analysis of two marine sponges with different microbiomes. BMC Genomics 17(1): 158. doi: 10.1186/s12864-016-2501-0.
  3. Hentschel U, Piel J, Degnan SM, Taylor MW (2012) Genomic insights into the marine sponge microbiome. Nature Reviews Microbiology 10(9): 641-654


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