Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Proc Biol Sci. 2005 Jun 22;272(1569):1209-16.

Episymbiotic microbes as food and defence for marine isopods: unique symbioses in a hostile environment.

Author information

Institute of Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Morehead City, NC 28557, USA.


Symbioses profoundly affect the diversity of life, often through novel biochemical services that symbionts provide to their hosts. These biochemical services are typically nutritional enhancements and less commonly defensive, but rarely both simultaneously. On the coral reefs of Papua New Guinea, we discovered unique associations between marine isopod crustaceans (Santia spp.) and episymbiotic microbes. Transmission electron microscopy and pigment analyses show that episymbiont biomass is dominated by large (20-30 microm) cyanobacterial cells. The isopods consume these photosymbionts and "cultivate" them by inhabiting exposed sunlit substrates, a behaviour made possible by symbionts' production of a chemical defence that is repulsive to fishes. Molecular phylogenetic analyses demonstrated that the symbiotic microbial communities are diverse and probably dominated in terms of population size by bacteria and small unicellular Synechococcus-type cyanobacteria. Although largely unknown in the oceans, defensive symbioses probably promote marine biodiversity by allowing niche expansions into otherwise hostile environments.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center