Tuesday, January 26, 2016

New paper published

by Xavier Turon

New paper published in Frontiers in Zoology: “Feeding cessation alters host morphology and bacterial communities in the ascidian Pseudodistoma crucigaster”, by Susanna López-Legentil, Xavier Turon and Patrick M. Erwin.

This article is the result of yet another collaboration between the projects ChallenGen and MarSymbiOmics. We have coupled electron microscopy and 16S rRNA gene tag pyrosequencing to investigate the bacterial communities associated with the colonial ascidian Pseudodistoma crucigaster, a species endemic to the Mediterranean Sea that has a life cycle with two phases: actively-filtering (active) and non-filtering (resting) forms.

Active (A) and resting (B) colonies of Pseudodistoma crucigaster. The active form has functional siphonal apertures for filtering water, while the resistance form has all apertures sealed by a glassy cuticle.
Resting colonies exhibited a reduced branchial sac (feeding apparatus) and a thickened cuticle. Electron microscope images also suggested higher abundance of colonizing microorganisms on surfaces of resting colonies. Accordingly, bacterial sequences associated with environmental sources (sediment and biofilms, >99 % similarity) were detected exclusively in resting colonies. Bacterial communities of P. crucigaster colonies (active and resting) were dominated by 3 core taxa affiliated (>94 % similarity) with previously described symbiotic Alphaproteobacteria in marine invertebrates. Shifts in rare bacteria were detected when ascidians entered the resting phase, including the appearance of strictly anaerobic lineages and nitrifying bacterial guilds.

These findings suggest that physical (thickened cuticle) and metabolic (feeding cessation) changes in host ascidians have cascading effects on associated bacteria, where modified oxygen concentrations and chemical substrates for microbial metabolism may create anaerobic microhabitats and promote colonization by environmental microorganisms.

Network of bacterial OTUs in three active and three resting samples of Pseudodistoma crucigaster, with edges coded by specificity.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Master Thesis of Manuel Orobitg presented!

by Xavier Turon

In November, 2015, Manuel Orobitg, student of the Master of Ocenagropahy and Management of the Marine Environment at the University of Barcelona, presented his MSc Thesis “Morphology vs metabarcoding. A comparison of techniques for biodiversity assessment in Maërl beds”, supervised by Xavier Turon, Creu Palacin and Owen Wangensteen. This Thesis reported results from the Metabarpark project, with which the ChallenGen project is closely collaborating.

Sampling of the Maërl community in Islas Cíes.
Assortment of crustaceans from the 1 mm fraction.
In this study, Manuel analysed morphologically samples collected at the same time as the ones for the genetic studies in the detritic bottoms of Islas Cies and Cabrera Archipelago. He focused his analyses on three major groups: polychaetes, crustaceans, and molluscs. He identified at the lowest level possible, with the help of taxonomists (a big thanks goes to Daniel Martin and Lídia Delgado) the species present in the 10 mm and 1 mm filtrates, and obtained biomass values by weight. The morphological analyses found 77, 45, and 44 morphospecies of polychaetes, crustaceans, and molluscs, respectively, while the genetic analyses yielded 182, 245, and 70 MOTUs, respectively, for the same size fractions. Thus, metabarcoding allowed the determination of a higher diversity, but the taxonomic precision attained was higher with morphology. On the other hand, all structural parameters (biomass dominance curves, alpha- and beta-diversity patterns) were markedly different between the metabarcoding and the morphology datasets, indicating that both methods capture different aspects of the biodiversity structure present. The morphological datasets tended to be quantitatively dominated by a few species, while metabarcoding found a more even distribution of biomass of the dominant MOTUs.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Starfish telomeres on a radio interview

by Alex Garcia

The starfish Coscinasterias tenuispina has the ability to reproduce sexually and asexually by fission, and many populations are even maintained by only asexual reproduction. One of our issues was to investigate if asexual populations can be maintained indefinitely. Our findings revealed that the starfish elongates their telomeres after fission, regenerating their DNA. Telomeres are repetitive sequences at the caps of chromosomes and are correlated with the age of individuals, therefore, in some point of view; the starfish have a mechanism to rejuvenate themselves.

Different media has been interested in this finding after its publication in Heredity. Among them, the radio program “Al otro lado del espejo” in which I participated last week.