New paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

We published a new paper on the escape of endosymbionts from the giant tubeworm host Riftia pachyptila in the deep-sea.

Julia Klose, Martin F. Polz, Michael Wagner, Mario P. Schimak, Sabine Gollner, Monika Bright

Endosymbionts escape dead hydrothermal vent tubeworms to enrich the free-living population. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Aug, 17, 2015; published ahead of print doi:10.1073/pnas.1501160112

Maintaining the mutualism of Riftia pachyptila and its horizontally transmitted bacterial symbionts requires the symbionts to be able to escape from their hosts and replenish the free-living bacterial population. We could show, that high amounts of symbionts are released from dead host tissue under simulated deep-sea and hydrothermal vent conditions in high-pressure aquaria in the laboratory. The escaped bacteria settled on surfaces where they proliferated. Monitoring of tubeworm clumps at a hydrothermal vent field at the East Pacific Rise following a volcanic eruption exhibited rapid turnover of tubeworm clumps within two years, suggesting that large numbers of bacteria could be released over a relatively short time. The connection between the host-associated and free-living bacterial populations might explain how the symbiotic relationship between tubeworms and bacteria has remained stable over evolutionary time scales.

Workshop on Symbiosis April 2015


The Research Focus Symbiosis of the Faculty of Life Sciences will be holding the next "Let's talk about symbiosis"- workshop on Friday the 17th of April. To register, please send an e-mail to Andrea Nussbaumer  ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) and let her know if you want to give a presentation or just to participate. The deadline for the registration is March 27th. For the presentation, you only need to submit a title. Non-presenting participants are also required to register, so we can organize accordingly.

Please circulate this information to anyone who might be interested: Colleagues, Post-docs, PhD students, master students, etc...

Conference and Workshop Autumn 2014


Julia and Monika attended the Symbiomics Conference and 4th Annual Meeting in Palma de Mallorca, 12th to 14th November 2014. Several invited scientific leaders in symbiosis presented their work and provided valuable comments and suggestions for the PhD students of this program. All students presented their work and Julia gave a talk on her PhD thesis project: “Ecological and evolutionary role of horizontal transmission in the model system Riftia pachyptila” Little time was left in this excellent meeting for discovering Palma de Mallorca. Nevertheless, we managed to get our feet wet when taking a selfie at the beach.

Science retreat

Our yearly science retreat was in Puhrbach - Burgenland Oct 17-19, 2014. Inspired by the spacy decoration in our seminar room we discussed the past and brainstormed about the future.

new paper in Frontiers in Microbiology

There is a new review on the giant ciliate mutualism from chemosynthesis-based marine shallow waters

Monika Bright , Salvador Espada-Hinojosa, Ilias Lagkouvardos and Jean-Marie Volland

The giant ciliate Zoothamnium niveum and its thiotrophic epibiont Candidatus Thiobios zoothamnicoli: a model system to study interspecies cooperation, Frontiers in Microbiology, online, April 7, 2014; doi:10.3389/fmicb.2014.00145

Symbioses between chemoautotrophic sulfur-oxidizing (thiotrophic) bacteria and protists or animals are among the most diverse and prevalent in the ocean. They are extremely difficult to maintain in aquaria and no thiotrophic symbiosis involving an animal host has ever been successfully cultivated. In contrast, we have cultivated the giant ciliate Zoothamnium niveum and its obligate ectosymbiont Cand. Thiobios zoothamnicoli in small flow-through aquaria. This review provides an overview of the host and the symbiont and their phylogenetic relationships. We summarize our knowledge on the ecology, geographic distribution and life cycle of the host, on the vertical transmission of the symbiont, and on the cultivation of this symbiosis. We then discuss the benefits and costs involved in this cooperation compared with other thiotrophic symbioses and outline our view on the evolution and persistence of this byproduct mutualism.
journal article and download article as pdf file (open access)

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