Meeting Abstract

S9-5  Sunday, Jan. 6 10:00 - 10:30  Chemical Ecology of Marine Sponges PAUL, VJ*; FREEMAN, CJ; AGARWAL, V; Smithsonian Institution; Smithsonian Institution; Georgia Institute of Technology

The chemical ecology and chemical defenses of sponges have been investigated for decades; consequently, sponges are among the best understood marine organisms in terms of their chemical ecology, from the level of molecules to ecosystems. Over ten thousands natural products have been reported from marine sponges, and although relatively few of these sponge compounds have been studied for their ecological functions, they have been demonstrated to serve as chemical defenses against predators, microorganisms, fouling organisms and other competitors. Sponges are hosts to an unrivaled diversity of microorganisms, with over 30 microbial phyla found in these associations to date. Microbial community composition and abundance is highly variable across host taxa, with a continuum from diverse assemblages of many microbial taxa to those that are dominated by a single microbial group. Microbial communities expand the nutritional repertoire of their hosts by providing access to inorganic and dissolved sources of nutrients. Not only does this continuum of microorganism-sponge associations lead to divergent nutritional characteristics in sponges, these associated microorganisms and symbionts have long been suspected, and are now known, to biosynthesize some of the natural products found in sponges. Modern ‘omics’ tools provide ways to study these sponge-microbe associations that would have been difficult even a decade ago. Metabolomics facilitate comparisons of sponge compounds produced within and among taxa, and metagenomics and metatranscriptomics provide tools to understand the biology of host-microbe associations and the biosynthesis of ecologically relevant natural products.