The second skin: Ecological role of epibiotic biofilms on marine organisms

Martin Wahl*, Franz Goecke, Antje Labes, Sergey Dobretsov, Florian Weinberger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

312 Citations (Scopus)


In the aquatic environment, biofilms on solid surfaces are omnipresent. The outer body surface of marine organisms often represents a highly active interface between host and biofilm. Since biofilms on living surfaces have the capacity to affect the fluxes of information, energy, and matter across the host's body surface, they have an important ecological potential to modulate the abiotic and biotic interactions of the host. Here we review existing evidence how marine epibiotic biofilms affect their hosts' ecology by altering the properties of and processes across its outer surfaces. Biofilms have a huge potential to reduce its host's access to light, gases, and/or nutrients and modulate the host's interaction with further foulers, consumers, or pathogens.These effects of epibiotic biofilms may intensely interact with environmental conditions. The quality of a biofilm's impact on the host may vary from detrimental to beneficial according to the identity of the epibiotic partners, the type of interaction considered, and prevailing environmental conditions. The review concludes with some unresolved but important questions and future perspectives.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberAUG
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Biofilm
  • Chemical ecology
  • Epibiosis
  • Microbe-macroorganism interaction
  • Modulation of interactions
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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