, Volume 103, Issue 3, pp 387-401

Micromorphology and ultrastructure of Caribbean sclerosponges

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Fine structural analysis of living tissue of the sclerosponges Ceratoporella nicholsoni (Hickson) and Stromatospongia norae Hartman, collected near Discovery Bay, Jamaica, between 1984 and 1986, was carried out using transmission and scanning electron microscopy (TEM and SEM). The thick dermal membrane of these sponges is covered by exopinacocytes having a “T” shape in sections perpendicular to the surface. A dense, complex glycocalyx is produced at the surface of these cells. Choanocyte chambers are diplodal and unusually small. The inhalant and exhalant canals of both species are characterized by the presence of valvules, made by transverse lamellipodial processes of the endopinacocytes lining them. An abundant and diversified bacterial community occupies almost 20% of the mesohyl. A single layer of active basopinacocytes lines the mesohyl at the interface between the living tissue and the aragonitic skeleton. Basopinacocytes are presumed to be precursors of the irregular fibrillar organic matrix found in the aragonitic skeleton. Sclerocytes and spongocytes are abundant in the vicinity of the siliceous spicules. Typical lophocytes releasing smooth collagen fibrils are common in the dermal membrane as well as in the choanosome where they can be grouped in bundles. Uniquely, C. nicholsoni elaborates rough intercellular fibrils characterized by periodically spaced thickenings. The endolithic algae Ostreobium sp. is present in the most apical zones of the aragonitic skeleton, but does not seem to interfere with its development. The striking micromorphological resemblances between both species are discussed and compared to demosponges.

Contribution no. 472 from the Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory, University of the West Indies, Discovery Bay, Jamaica, West Indies
Communicated by O. Kinne, Oldendorf/Luhe