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MEPS 729:99-116 (2024)  -  DOI:

Role of Astrophorina sponges (Demospongiae) in food-web interactions at the Flemish Cap (NW Atlantic)

Tanja Stratmann1,2,*, Francisco Javier Murillo3, Mar Sacau4, Mariano Koen Alonso5, Ellen Kenchington3

1NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Department of Ocean Systems, 1797 SZ ‘t Horntje (Texel), The Netherlands
2Utrecht University, Department of Earth Sciences, 3584 CB Utrecht, The Netherlands
3Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Dartmouth, NS B2Y 4A2, Canada
4Centro Oceanográfico de Vigo (COV-IEO), CSIC, Subida a Radio Faro 50, 36390 Vigo, Spain
5Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, St. John’s, NL A1C 5X1, Canada
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Deep-sea sponges are important contributors to carbon and nitrogen cycling due to their large filtration capacity. Species of the suborder Astrophorina form dense sponge grounds in the North Atlantic, where they serve as prey for spongivores, but also have non-trophic interactions with commensal epi- and endobionts. At the Flemish Cap (NW Atlantic), Astrophorina sponges are present in 4 previously described deep-sea epifaunal assemblages: the deep-sea coral assemblage, lower slope assemblages 1 and 2, and the deep-sea sponge assemblage. To investigate their role in trophic and non-trophic interactions at the Flemish Cap, we developed trophic and non-trophic interaction web models for each of the 4 faunal assemblages using the published literature. By excluding the sponges from the models, we estimated how many trophic, and facultative and obligatory non-trophic, interactions would be lost, and how this removal affected food-web properties (number of compartments, links, link density, and connectance). Astrophorina sponges were mostly linked via facultative non-trophic interactions to 59, 58, 84, and 90 compartments in the deep-sea coral, the lower slope 1 and 2, and the deep-sea sponge assemblages, respectively. Direct trophic interactions only existed with Syllidae, Echinasteridae, and Pterasteridae. Astrophorina sponges were considered highest impact taxa in all faunal assemblages and, together with sea pens, they were identified as structural species/habitat formers and foundation species in the deep-sea coral and deep-sea sponge habitat. Hence, even less abundant, or non-representative (indicator), species can be important for food-web integrity via trophic and non-trophic interactions.

KEY WORDS: Presence-absence · Data modeling · Geodia sp. · Deep-sea benthos · Food-web · Connectance

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Cite this article as: Stratmann T, Murillo FJ, Sacau M, Alonso MK, Kenchington E (2024) Role of Astrophorina sponges (Demospongiae) in food-web interactions at the Flemish Cap (NW Atlantic). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 729:99-116.

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