Journal article Open Access

The Microbiome and Occurrence of Methanotrophy in Carnivorous Sponges

Hestetun, Jon T.; Dahle, Håkon; Jørgensen, Steffen L.; Olsen, Bernt R.; Rapp, Hans T.

As shown by recent studies, filter-feeding sponges are known to host a wide variety of microorganisms. However, the microbial community of the non-filtering carnivorous sponges (Porifera, Cladorhizidae) has been the subject of less scrutiny. Here, we present the results from a comparative study of the methanotrophic carnivorous sponge Cladorhiza methanophila from a mud volcano-rich area at the Barbados Accretionary Prism, and five carnivorous species from the Jan Mayen Vent Field (JMVF) at the Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge. Results from 16S rRNA microbiome data indicate the presence of a diverse assemblage of associated microorganisms in carnivorous sponges mainly from the Gamma- and Alphaproteobacteria, Flavobacteriaceae, and Thaumarchaeota. While the abundance of particular groups varied throughout the dataset, we found interesting similarities to previous microbiome results from non-carnivorous deep sea sponges, suggesting that the carnivorous sponges share characteristics of a previously hypothesized putative deep-sea sponge microbial community. Chemolithoautotrophic symbiosis was confirmed for C. methanophila through a microbial community with a high abundance of Methylococcales and very light isotopic δ13C and δ15N ratios (-60 to -66‰/3.5 to 5.2‰) compared to the other cladorhizid species (-22 to -24‰/8.5 to 10.5‰). We provide evidence for the presence of putative sulfur-oxidizing Gammaproteobacteria in the arctic cladorhizids; however, δ13C and δ15N signatures did not provide evidence for significant chemoautotrophic symbiosis in this case, and the slightly higher abundance of cladorhizids at the JMVF site compared to the nearby deep sea likely stem from an increased abundance of prey rather than a more direct vent association. The phylogenetic position of C. methanophila in relation to other carnivorous sponges was established using a three-gene phylogenetic analysis, and it was found to be closely related to other non-methanotrophic Cladorhiza species with a similar morphology included in the dataset, suggesting a recent origin for methanotrophy in this species. C. methanophila remains the only known carnivorous sponge with a strong, chemolithoautotrophic symbiont association, and methanotrophic symbiosis does not seem to be a widespread property within the Cladorhizidae.

This study was supported by the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre (grant to HR, project number 70184219), the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (grant to HR), the Research Council of Norway (through contract number 179560), and the SponGES project through Horizon 2020, the European Union Framework Program for Research and Innovation (grant agreement No 679849). C. methanophila samples were collected during R/V Atlantis cruise AT 21-02 (June, 2012; CL Van Dover, Chief Scientist), funded by the US National Science Foundation OCE-1031050. Copyright © 2016 Hestetun, Dahle, Jørgensen, Olsen and Rapp. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Files (2.4 MB)
Name Size
2.4 MB Download
Views 82
Downloads 56
Data volume 132.8 MB
Unique views 80
Unique downloads 55


Cite as