Reef sponges facilitate the transfer of coral-derived organic matter to their associated fauna via the sponge loop

Rix, Laura, Goeij, Jasper M. de, Oevelen, Dick van, Struck, Ulrich, Al-Horani, FFuad A., Wild, Christian and Naumann, Malik S. (2018) Reef sponges facilitate the transfer of coral-derived organic matter to their associated fauna via the sponge loop Marine Ecology Progress Series, 589 . pp. 85-96. DOI 10.3354/meps12443.

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Abstract

The high biodiversity of coral reefs results in complex trophic webs where energy and nutrients are transferred between species through a multitude of pathways. Here, we hypothesize that reef sponges convert the dissolved organic matter released by benthic primary producers (e.g. corals) into particulate detritus that is transferred to sponge-associated detritivores via the sponge loop pathway. To test this hypothesis, we conducted stable isotope (13C and15N) tracer experiments to investigate the uptake and transfer of coral-derived organic matter from the sponges Mycale fistulifera and Negombata magnifica to 2 types of detritivores commonly associated with sponges: ophiuroids (Ophiothrix savignyi and Ophiocoma scolopendrina) and polychaetes (Polydorella smurovi). Findings revealed that the organic matter naturally released by the corals was indeed readily assimilated by both sponges and rapidly released again as sponge detritus. This detritus was subsequently consumed by the detritivores, demonstrating transfer of coral-derived organic matter from sponges to their associated fauna and confirming all steps of the sponge loop. Thus, sponges provide a trophic link between corals and higher trophic levels, thereby acting as key players within reef food webs.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Coral mucus; Reef trophic web; Detritus; Sponge loop; Detritivore; Trophic interactions; Interspecific associations
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB3 Marine Ecology > FB3-MI Marine Microbiology
Refereed: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.3354/meps12443
ISSN: 0171-8630
Date Deposited: 12 Mar 2018 10:50
Last Modified: 12 Mar 2018 10:50
URI: http://eprints.uni-kiel.de/id/eprint/42223

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