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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 693:125-140 (2022)  -  DOI:

Depth-dependent trophic strategies of Caribbean sponges on mesophotic coral reefs

Keir J. Macartney1,3,*, M. Sabrina Pankey1, Amelia Clayshulte Abraham2, Marc Slattery2, Michael P. Lesser1

1Department of Molecular, Cellular and Biomedical Sciences and School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USA
2Department of BioMolecular Sciences, Division of Environmental Toxicology, University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS 38677, USA
3Present address: School of Earth, Environmental and Marine Sciences, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Port Isabel, TX 78958, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Mesophotic coral reef ecosystems (MCEs) are characterized by gradients in irradiance, temperature and trophic resources. As depth increases on Caribbean mesophotic reefs, particulate organic matter increases while dissolved organic matter decreases, and the increase in particulate organic matter is directly related to the increase in sponge abundances and growth rates on MCEs. To further understand the trophic ecology of sponges, changes in microbiome composition and function, stable isotopic composition and proximate biochemical composition of 4 Caribbean reef sponges (Amphimedon compressa, Agelas tubulata, Plakortis angulospiculatus and Xestospongia muta) were quantified along a shallow to mesophotic depth gradient on Grand Cayman Island. Increases in δ15N for all sponges were observed as depth increased, indicating an increasing reliance on heterotrophic food resources. Species-specific changes in symbiotic microbial community composition were also observed as depth increased, and the predicted functional genes associated with nitrogen and carbon cycling showed species-specific changes between depths. Regardless of species-specific changes in microbiome community structure or function, or whether sponges were classified as high microbial or low microbial abundance, sponges increased their consumption of particulate organic matter with increasing depth into the lower mesophotic zone.

KEY WORDS: Sponges · Coral reef · Mesophotic · Trophic ecology · Microbiome · Stable isotopes · Carbon · Nitrogen · Particulate organic matter · Dissolved organic matter

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Cite this article as: Macartney KJ, Pankey MS, Clayshulte Abraham A, Slattery M, Lesser MP (2022) Depth-dependent trophic strategies of Caribbean sponges on mesophotic coral reefs. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 693:125-140.

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