HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Biological Sciences


Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

Jose V. Lopez

Second Advisor

Aurelien Tartar

Third Advisor

David Gilliam


The giant barrel sponge, Xestospongia muta is an iconic and essential species of the coral reefs in South Florida. The sponge has primary roles providing ecosystem services and creating unique habitats for diverse microbial communities. On April 27, 2012 an outbreak of Sponge Orange Band Disease (SOB) was detected off the coast of South Florida. The disease begins with sponge bleaching, followed by mesohyl or “mesohyl” necrosis and often total mesohyl disintegration. Sampling from two diseased populations at Boynton Beach and Fort Lauderdale, FL took place on May 11th and May 29th, 2012. Each of the nine diseased sponges from Boynton Beach and the five diseased sponges from Fort Lauderdale had three separate mesophyl samples collected to examine the effects of disease progression on the microbial community. These included healthy mesohyl from a diseased sponge (HoD), the boundary layer which captured the advancing line of diseased mesohyl (BL) and diseased mesohyl from a diseased sponge (D). Mesohyl from three sponges with no visible signs of SOB disease were also collected from each sampling location to use for healthy controls (HC). Sequencing of the V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene was performed on all of these samples via the “454” pyrosequencing on a Titanium GS FLX platform. The microbial communities associated with the diseased samples revealed a microbiome shift that followed the progression of Sponge Orange Band Disease (SOB) and was dominated by Bacteroidetes, Protebacteria and Chloroflexi. No singular or group of microbes were solely found within the infected mesohyl of Xestospongia muta from both sampling site populations; therefore there is no unequivocal candidate as a definite microbial causative SOB agent. But there were bacteria associated with disease progression that included Armatimonadetes, Caldithrix, Chlorobi, Fibrobacteres, Fusobacteria, GN02, KSB3, OP1, OP2, OP8, Planctomycetes, SR1, TM6, Tenericutes, Verrucomicrobia, WPS-2 and ZB3. Verrucomicrobia and Plantomycetes increased significantly within the D and the BL populations, which was consistent within all the diseased sponges. This study provides a deep sequencing profile of microbial communities within Xestospongia muta affected with SOB Disease and provides a new insight into the sponge healthy microbiome.

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