Sponge microbiome


Cristina Díez Vives

Junior Leader ‘La Caixa’ researcher



Sponges are keystone species in marine environments, essential for the ocean’s health due to their role in both habitat formation and benthic-pelagic coupling. Sponges rely on their associated microbial community for nutrition, health and chemical defence, and hence, are necessary for their survival. However, the role of these symbionts during sponge reproduction is unknown. I study this relationship, because it is critical in order to determine sponge reproductive success, and to predict the effects of ongoing environmental change on the sponge biology, and ultimately the marine ecosystems that they support.



Díez Vives C., Koutsouveli V., Conejero M., Riesgo A. Global patterns in symbiont selection and transmission strategies in sponges. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 2022, p. 1013

Taylor JA., Díez-Vives C., Majzoub ME., Nielsen S., Thomas T. Stress response of the marine sponge Scopalina sp.. Can microbial community composition predict sponge disease?. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 2021, 97 (8), fiab095.

Díez-Vives C., Taboada S., Leiva C., Busch K., Hentschel U., Riesgo A. On the way to specificity - Microbiome reflects sponge genetic cluster primarily in highly structured populations. Molecular Ecology 2020, 29-22, pp.4412-4427.

Kenny NJ., Francis WR., Rivera-Vicéns RE., Juravel K., de Mendoza A., Díez-Vives C., et al. Tracing animal genomic evolution with the chromosomal-level assembly of the freshwater sponge Ephydatia muelleri. Nature Communications 2020, 11, 3676.

Björk JR., Díez-Vives C., Astudillo-García C., Archie EA., Montoya JM. Vertical transmission of sponge microbiota is inconsistent and unfaithful. Nature Ecology and Evolution 2019, 3(8):1172-1183

More publications



My main objectives have been to determine the role of symbionts during sponge sexual reproduction, and microbial community changes from the development of oocytes to sponge recruits. During reproduction, sponges show their highest energetic requirements to produce large quantities of yolk to nourish the oocytes and embryos. However, this becomes challenging because their feeding system, comprised by choanocytes for filtering water and archaeocytes for food distribution, is compromised when these cells transform into the sponge gametes. Once brooded larvae are released, they also need to survive a non-feeding period until completing metamorphoses into the sessile body plan.

I aim to understand how the sponge associated microbes (the ‘microbiome’) support the nutritional status during gametogenesis and in offspring, understanding which members are digested, dividing, or transmitted during these periods. I mostly use light and electron microscopy to determine the reproductive stage of the sponges, and then metabarcoding and metatranscriptomics approaches to study the changes in composition and functionality of the microbiomes. In some cases, I also apply quantitative PCR, and Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization (FISH) to determine total abundances of microbes and location of these within the sponge tissue. 

Diez Vives2023


CDV group2 Laboratory Members

Cristina Díez Vives Junior Leader La Caixa
Almudena Álvarez Fernández Technician
Carlota Gracia Sancha Technician

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