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Microbial diversity and functions at unusual habitats

Microorganisms are able to survive and remain metabolically active under highly diverse conditions. This outstanding feature has its origin in the manifold physiological capacities of microbial communities.
The study of “unusual environments” is of great importance to resolve general interactions of microorganisms and the environment. The term “unusual environment” must not be mixed up with the term “extreme environment”, which is much more common and also relatively well defined. Extreme environments (as well as extreme microorganisms) can be well defined by physico-chemical characteristics (or by the metabolic activity at these conditions). This opportunity does not exist for “unusual habitats”. We define unusual habitats as those ones which are (1) outside the expected or common range of distinct microorganisms or populations, but still allowing them or their relatives to be metabolically active and (2) habitats outside the expected or common environmental range.
The study of organisms living at unusual habitats is giving the opportunity to get new insights into the general interaction of microorganisms and environment. For this reason, we investigate several unusual habitats and their microbial inhabitants as well as their potential functions and roles.

Research on unusual habitats at IOW
We are currently investigating the role of host-microbiome interactions between the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) and its microbiota in relation to oyster performance in extreme habitats in the CRASSOBIOM project. The objective is to understand whether the association of the Pacific oyster C. gigas with its microbiota facilitates the survival of this invasive species in the intertidal environment of the German Wadden Sea. The potential role of the host microbiome in the response of holobionts to environmental stressors will be determined by measuring stress-induced changes in the physiology, immune functions and transcriptomic profiles of oysters that have intact microbiome compared with microbiome-depleted conspecifics. We will conduct field transplant experiments to assess whether the molecular stress signatures of the host-microbiome interactions can be tracked in the natural habitats with the different degree of abiotic stress.