Biodiversity, environmental drivers, and sustainability of the global deep-sea sponge microbiome

Kathrin Busch*, Beate M. Slaby, Wolfgang Bach, Antje Boetius, Ina Clefsen, Ana Colaço, Marie Creemers, Javier Cristobo, Luisa Federwisch, Andre Franke, Asimenia Gavriilidou, Andrea Hethke, Ellen Kenchington, Furu Mienis, Sadie Mills, Ana Riesgo, Pilar Ríos, Emyr Martyn Roberts, Detmer Sipkema, Lucía PitaPeter J. Schupp, Joana Xavier, Hans Tore Rapp, Ute Hentschel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


In the deep ocean symbioses between microbes and invertebrates are emerging as key drivers of ecosystem health and services. We present a large-scale analysis of microbial diversity in deep-sea sponges (Porifera) from scales of sponge individuals to ocean basins, covering 52 locations, 1077 host individuals translating into 169 sponge species (including understudied glass sponges), and 469 reference samples, collected anew during 21 ship-based expeditions. We demonstrate the impacts of the sponge microbial abundance status, geographic distance, sponge phylogeny, and the physical-biogeochemical environment as drivers of microbiome composition, in descending order of relevance. Our study further discloses that fundamental concepts of sponge microbiology apply robustly to sponges from the deep-sea across distances of >10,000 km. Deep-sea sponge microbiomes are less complex, yet more heterogeneous, than their shallow-water counterparts. Our analysis underscores the uniqueness of each deep-sea sponge ground based on which we provide critical knowledge for conservation of these vulnerable ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5160
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2022


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