Substratum selection in coral reef sponges and their interactions with other benthic organisms

González-Murcia, Saúl, Ekins, Merrick, Bridge, Tom C.L., Battershill, Christopher N., and Jones, Geoffrey P. (2023) Substratum selection in coral reef sponges and their interactions with other benthic organisms. Coral Reefs, 42 (2). pp. 427-442.

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Substratum preferences and contact interactions among sessile organisms can be a major determinant of biotic gradients in the structure of benthic communities on coral reefs. Sponges are a substantial component of these communities, but their substratum requirements and interactions with other benthic taxa are poorly understood. Here, we quantified sponge substratum preferences and interactions from 838 randomly selected photo-quadrats across different depths (5, 10 and 15 m), exposure (sheltered and exposed), and substratum topography (horizontal, inclined and vertical surfaces) on coastal coral reefs in Kimbe Bay. A high proportion (55%) of sponge colonies were associated with dead coral, unconsolidated coral rubble (7%) and calcium carbonate rock (CaCO3 rock) (7%), even though they represented only 10%, 4% and 1% of the available substratum, respectively. Sponges interacted most frequently with algae (~ 34%), corals (~ 30%) and crustose coralline algae (CCA ~ 19%) that represented ~ 46%, ~ 18% and ~ 14% of the substratum cover, respectively. The microhabitat preferences of sponges and frequency of interactions with other taxa were mostly consistent across various exposure, depth and substratum topography conditions. Most interactions appeared to be “stand-offs” (71%) which are interactions with no clear winner or loser. However, when overgrowth occurred, sponges were usually winners, overgrowing corals (92%), CCA (81%) and macroalgae (65%). Three sponge species Dysidea sp1, Lamellodysidea cf. chlorea and Lamellodysidea chlorea accounted for 51% to 96% of the overgrowth of sponges over algae, corals and CCA, but there was no one species found to always win or lose. Our results suggest that sponges avoid other biological substrata by preferentially settling on dead coral, coral rubble and CaCO3 rock, but when they do come into contact with algae and corals, they frequently overgrow their spacial competitors.

Item ID: 78345
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0975
Keywords: Competition, Coral reefs, Environmental conditions, Overgrowth, Porifera
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2023. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Date Deposited: 29 Aug 2023 00:22
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 > 180501 Assessment and management of benthic marine ecosystems @ 100%
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