Specificity and temporal dynamics of complex bacteria-sponge symbiotic interactions

Björk, J. R.; Díez-Vives, C.; Coma, R.; Ribes, M.; Montoya, J.
Microbes are known to form intricate and intimate relationships with most animal and plant taxa. Microbe–host symbiotic associations are poorly explored in comparison with other species interaction networks. The current paradigm on symbiosis research stems from species-poor systems where pairwise and reciprocally specialized interactions between a single microbe and a single host that coevolve are the norm. These symbioses involving just a few species are fascinating in their own right, but more diverse and complex host-associated microbial communities are increasingly found, with new emerging questions that require new paradigms and approaches. Here we adopt an intermediate complexity approach to study the specificity, phylogenetic community structure, and temporal variability of the subset of the most abundant bacteria associated with different sponge host species with diverse eco-evolutionary characteristics. We do so by using a monthly resolved annual temporal series of host-associated and free-living bacteria. Bacteria are very abundant and diverse within marine sponges, and these symbiotic interactions are hypothesized to have a very ancient origin. We show that host–bacteria reciprocal specialization depends on the temporal scale and level of taxonomic aggregation considered. Sponge hosts with similar eco-evolutionary characteristics (e.g., volume of tissue corresponding to microbes, water filtering rates, and microbial transmission type) have similar bacterial phylogenetic community structure when looking at interactions aggregated over time. In general, sponge hosts hypothesized to form more intricate relationships with bacteria show a remarkably persistent bacterial community over time. Other hosts, however, show a large turnover similar to that observed for free-living bacterioplankton. Our study highlights the importance of exploring temporal variability in host–microbe interaction networks if we aim to determine how specific and persistent these poorly explored but extremely common interactions are.
bacterial community dynamics, ecological networks, marine sponges,
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