The ecology and phylogeny of cyanobacterial symbionts in sponges


Kayley Usher, School of Plant Biology, University of Western Australia, Stirling, Crawley, WA, Australia HWY 6009.


Cyanobacteria have flexible photosynthetic apparatus that allows them to utilise light at very low levels, making them ideal symbionts for a wide range of organisms. Sponge associations with cyanobacteria are common in all areas of the world, but little is known about them. Recent research has revealed new cyanobacterial symbionts that may be host specific and two major clades, ‘Candidatus Synechococcus spongiarum’ and Oscillatoria spongeliae, that occur in widely separated geographic locations in unrelated sponge hosts. These clades may represent a cluster of closely related symbiont species, or may be single species that are maintained by periods of horizontal transmission over large distances. Erroneous assumptions regarding the importance of cyanobacterial symbionts to the survival of individual sponges or species may arise from cyanosponges being deemed to be phototrophic or mixotrophic without studies of their photophysiology. This review brings together recent and past research on cyanobacterial associations with sponges, including their biogeography, phylogeny, host specificity, and ecology.