Significance of fish–sponge interactions in coral reef ecosystems

Coppock, Amy G., Kingsford, Michael J., Battershill, Christopher N., and Jones, Geoffrey P. (2022) Significance of fish–sponge interactions in coral reef ecosystems. Coral Reefs, 41. pp. 1285-1308.

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Sponges (Porifera) are a key component of many coral reef ecosystems. In some biogeographic regions, they are considered the dominant benthic fauna and they have the capacity to fulfil many similar roles to reef-building scleractinians. Certainly, sponges predominate at depth, below the critical thresholds of most coral species. The biological and physical attributes of these biogenic communities contribute essential resources for many reef-associated fishes. However, while fish–sponge interactions have been widely documented, there is no global synthesis of the literature on these interrelationships from the perspective of fish ecology. Here we evaluate coral reef fish–sponge relationships, including the role of sponges in providing food and shelter for fishes, the influence fishes have on sponge distribution and abundance and possible outcomes of climate change on fish–sponge interactions. To date, 16 fish families have been shown to associate with 56 different sponge genera, using them as either a source of shelter (n = 17) or a food source (n = 50), although methodologies for the latter currently lack consistency. We demonstrate that a more comprehensive understanding of fish–sponge interactions has been garnered from tropical Atlantic coral reefs, which has resulted in a strong biogeographic bias. While it is evident that in some areas of the Caribbean fish are key in shaping the distribution and abundance of sponges, it is not yet known whether this conclusion applies to the Indo-Pacific. With increasing stresses such as bleaching events impacting coral reef ecosystems, further work is needed to evaluate whether sponges can fulfil similar functional roles to those previously provided by reef-building scleractinians. Similarly, determining whether sponge expansion will compensate for the negative effects of reef degradation, or contribute to their decline, is vital.

Item ID: 74226
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0722-4028
Keywords: Sponges, Porifera, Fish, Interrelationships, Interactions, Shelter, Habitat, Predation, Importance, Climate change, Tropical, Coral reefs
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Date Deposited: 18 May 2022 07:36
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180504 Marine biodiversity @ 100%
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