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MEPS 423:95-100 (2011)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08886

Incongruence between the distribution of a common coral reef sponge and photosynthesis

R. J. Bannister1,2,6,*, M. O. Hoogenboom3, K. R. N. Anthony4, C. N. Battershill2,5, S. Whalan1, N. S. Webster5, R. de Nys1,2

1School of Marine and Tropical Biology, and 2AIMS@JCU Tropical Aquaculture Program, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
3Faculty of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
4Center for Marine Studies, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia
5Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB 3, Townsville, Queensland 4810, Australia
6Present address: Institute of Marine Research, PO Box 1870, 5817 Bergen, Norway

ABSTRACT: Symbiosis between coral reef fauna and microorganisms drives the growth, maintenance and diversity of coral reef habitats. Sponges, a key faunal component of coral reefs, form complex symbiotic relationships with microorganisms which may supply over half of their nutritional requirements through photosynthesis. The habitat distribution of the coral reef sponge Rhopaloeides odorabile correlates with light availability, suggestive of photosynthesis. The present study directly investigated the hypothesis that habitat distribution of R. odorabile is correlated with photosynthesis. Results of photorespirometry trials of 30 ind. exposed to light intensities between 0 and 900 µmol photons m–2 s–1 showed no evidence of photosynthesis. Furthermore, no photopigments were present in these sponges and no cyanobacteria could be detected within the tissue. These results did not vary between sponges collected from nutrient rich inner- and mid-shelf reefs, or from oligotrophic outer-shelf reefs. These findings demonstrate that R. odorabile is not a phototrophic sponge and that habitat distributions clearly correlated with light can be due to factors other than photosynthesis.


KEY WORDS: Symbiosis · Photosynthesis · Porifera · Rhopaloeides odorabile · Great Barrier Reef · Cyanobacteria


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Cite this article as: Bannister RJ, Hoogenboom MO, Anthony KRN, Battershill CN, Whalan S, Webster NS, de Nys R (2011) Incongruence between the distribution of a common coral reef sponge and photosynthesis. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 423:95-100. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08886

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