Microbial insights from Antarctic and Mediterranean shallow-water bone-eating worms
Bone-eating worms of the genus Osedax (Annelida, Siboglinidae) form unique holobionts (functional entity comprising host and associated microbiota), highly adapted to inhabit bone tissue of marine vertebrates. These gutless worms have developed nutritional symbioses housing intracellular, horizontally acquired, heterotrophic bacteria hypothesised to harness nutrients from organic compounds, sequestered within the bone. Despite previous efforts, critical mechanisms mediating activity and
... ion of diverse bacterial assemblages remain unclear. Using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing, we performed detailed taxonomic and predicted functional analyses shedding light on the microbial communities of two shallow-water Osedax species (Osedax deceptionensis and Osedax 'mediterranea') from contrasting habitats (Antarctic and Mediterranean Sea), in two tissue types (roots and palps). Comparative assessments between host species revealed distinct microbial assemblages whilst, within host species and body tissue, relative symbiont frequencies retained high variability. We reported relatively high abundances of microbes previously classified as primary endosymbionts, Ribotype 1 (order Oceanospirillales), and diverse likely secondary epibionts warranting further exploration as recurrent Osedax associates. Surprisingly, O. 'mediterranea' exhibited relatively low abundance of Oceanospirillales, but increased abundance of other potentially hydrocarbon degrading bacteria from the family Alteromonadaceae. We hypothesise the presence of functionally similar, non-Oceanospirillales primary endosymbionts within O. 'mediterranea'. Functional metagenomic profiling (using 16S rRNA sequences) predicted broad metabolic capabilities, encompassing relatively large abundances of genes associated with amino acid metabolism. Comparative analyses between host body tissue communities highlighted several genes potentially providing critical functions to the Osedax host or that confer adaptations for intracellular life, housed within bone embedded host root tissues. Publisher's Note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.