Bart, Martijn C; de Kluijver, Anna; Hoetjes, Sean; Absalah, Samira; Mueller, Benjamin; Kenchington, Ellen; Rapp, Hans Tore; de Goeij, Jasper M (2020). Scientific Reports https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-74670-0.
Deep-sea sponges create hotspots of biodiversity and biological activity in the otherwise barren deep-sea. However, it remains elusive how sponge hosts and their microbial symbionts acquire and process food in these food-limited environments. Therefore, we traced the processing (i.e. assimilation and respiration) of 13C- and 15N-enriched dissolved organic matter (DOM) and bacteria by three dominant North Atlantic deep-sea sponges: the high microbial abundance (HMA) demosponge Geodia barretti, the low microbial abundance (LMA) demosponge Hymedesmia paupertas, and the LMA hexactinellid Vazella pourtalesii. We also assessed the assimilation of both food sources into sponge- and bacteria-specific phospholipid-derived fatty acid (PLFA) biomarkers. All sponges were capable of assimilating DOM as well as bacteria. However, processing of the two food sources differed considerably between the tested species: the DOM assimilation-to-respiration efficiency was highest for the HMA sponge, yet uptake rates were 4–5 times lower compared to LMA sponges. In contrast, bacteria were assimilated most efficiently and at the highest rate by the hexactinellid compared to the demosponges. Our results indicate that phylogeny and functional traits (e.g., abundance of microbial symbionts, morphology) influence food preferences and diet composition of sponges, which further helps to understand their role as key ecosystem engineers of deep-sea habitats.