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Environ Microbiol. 2004 Feb;6(2):121-30.

Host specificity in marine sponge-associated bacteria, and potential implications for marine microbial diversity.

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School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.


Biodiversity is fundamental to both eukaryote and prokaryote ecology, yet investigations of diversity often differ markedly between the two disciplines. Host specificity - the association of organisms with only a few (specialism) or many (generalism) host species - is recognized within eukaryote ecology as a key determinant of diversity. In contrast, its implications for microbial diversity have received relatively little attention. Here we explore the relationship between microbial diversity and host specificity using marine sponge-bacteria associations. We used a replicated, hierarchical sampling design and both 16S rDNA- and rpoB-based denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) to examine whether three co-occurring sponges from temperate Australia -Cymbastela concentrica, Callyspongia sp. and Stylinos sp. - contained unique, specialized communities of microbes. Microbial communities varied little within each species of sponge, but variability among species was substantial. Over five seasons, the microbial community in C. concentrica differed significantly from other sponges, which were more similar to seawater. Overall, three types of sponge-associated bacteria were identified via 16S rDNA sequencing of excised DGGE bands: 'specialists'- found on only one host species, 'sponge associates'- found on multiple hosts but not in seawater, and 'generalists' from multiple hosts and seawater. Analogous to other high diversity systems, the degree of specificity of prokaryotes to host eukaryotes could have a potentially significant effect on estimates of marine microbial diversity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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