ERATO Evolving Symbiosis Project International Seminar Series #16

Dr. Jillian Petersen (University of Vienna, Austria)
“In symbiosis since the Silurian: Ecology and evolution of host-microbe interactions in marine lucinid clams”

Abstract: No organism evolved or lives in isolation. Virtually every living organism, including humans, relies on symbiotic microbes that provide a range of health benefits including synthesizing food and vitamins, protecting against pathogens, and detoxifying the environment. These symbiotic partnerships evolved in a complex environmental context, but our understanding of how the environment drives the function and evolution of host-microbe interactions is still in its infancy. In the marine environment, ‘extreme’ or challenging habitats are characterized by symbioses between animals and the specific microbial symbionts that underpin their survival. One ubiquitous example is lucinid clams, which burrow in sandy coastal sediments, a challenging habitat for animals due to the complete lack of oxygen, and abundance of the toxin hydrogen sulfide. However, they have evolved an obligate association with bacterial symbionts that use this toxic sulfide to power primary production, turning environmental toxins into food for their hosts. These partnerships are so successful, the animal hosts have diversified into one of the most species-rich animal families in the oceans today, and have dispersed to a range of coastal and deep-sea habitats worldwide. Thanks to their reliance on environmental energy sources, and the natural ‘simplicity’ of this symbiosis between one host and one prominent bacterial symbiont species, they are ideal for understanding how environments shape microbiomes at the molecular level. I will outline the genomic innovations that underpin the ecological and evolutionary success of these symbioses from seagrass meadows to the deep sea.

ERATO Evolving Symbiosis Project International Seminar Series #16
Sponsored by ERATO FUKATSU Evolving Symbiosis Project

Co-sponsored by Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research on Innovative Areas "Post-Koch Ecology”

Co-sponsored by Microbiology Research Center for Sustainability (MiCS), University of Tsukuba