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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 403:75-89 (2010)  -  DOI:

Selective feeding by sponges on pathogenic microbes: a reassessment of potential for abatement of microbial pollution

Manuel Maldonado1,*, Xichang Zhang2,3, Xupeng Cao2, Lingyun Xue2,3, Heng Cao2,3, Wei Zhang2,4,**

1Department of Aquatic Ecology, Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Blanes (CSIC), Acceso Cala St. Francesc 14, Blanes 17300, Girona, Spain
2Marine Bioproducts Engineering Group, Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, Chinese Academic of Sciences, Dalian 116023, China
3Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 10089, China
4Flinders Centre for Marine Bioprocessing and Bioproducts, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA 5042, Australia
*,**Corresponding authors. Emails: *,**

ABSTRACT: Sponges have traditionally been viewed as rather unselective filter feeders, and therefore as potential biofilters to remediate microbial water pollution. Here we show that the assumed connection between the ability of sponges to feed on microbes and the potential biotechnological use of such an ability to reduce microbial pollution is more complex than assumed. In a laboratory feeding experiment combined with a transmission electron microscopy study, we assessed the potential of the marine sponge Hymeniacidon perlevis to ingest and digest 3 common pathogenic microbes occurring in coastal waters: 2 bacteria (Escherichia coli and Vibrio anguillarum), and 1 marine yeast Rhodotorula sp. All 3 microbes were ingested by the sponge, but selectively, at different rates and following different cellular mechanisms. Yeast cells were processed very atypically by the sponge. Differences in the ingestion and digestion pathways led to large differences in the effectiveness of the sponge to remove the microbes. While sponge grazing reduced the concentration of E. coli and Rhodotorula sp. to levels far below the initial values, sponges were ineffective in abating concentrations of the most infective bacterium, V. anguillarum. This bacterium, which was digested more slowly than E. coli, proliferated in the experimental flasks at much higher rates than it was grazed. These findings raise the question whether sponges are suitable for bioremediation of microbial pollution, since selective or preferential ingestion of certain bacteria by sponges may end up fueling growth of those grazed less, such as Vibrio spp.

KEY WORDS: Bioremediation · Biofiltration · Bacterivory · Microbial pollution · Yeast digestion

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Cite this article as: Maldonado M, Zhang X, Cao X, Xue L, Cao H, Zhang W (2010) Selective feeding by sponges on pathogenic microbes: a reassessment of potential for abatement of microbial pollution. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 403:75-89.

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