Marine sponges as microbial fermenters


  • Editor: Peter Dunfield

Ute Hentschel, Research Center for Infectious Diseases, University of Würzburg, Röntgenring 11, D-97070 Würzburg, Germany. Tel.: ++49 931 312581; fax: ++49 931 312578; e-mail:


The discovery of phylogenetically complex, yet highly sponge-specific microbial communities in marine sponges, including novel lineages and even candidate phyla, came as a surprise. At the same time, unique research opportunities opened up, because the microorganisms of sponges are in many ways more accessible than those of seawater. Accordingly, we consider sponges as microbial fermenters that provide exciting new avenues in marine microbiology and biotechnology. This review covers recent findings regarding diversity, biogeography and population dynamics of sponge-associated microbiota, and the data are discussed within the larger context of the microbiology of the ocean.