, Volume 147, Issue 1, pp 243-250
Date: 21 Jan 2005

Changes in morphology and physiology of an East Mediterranean sponge in different habitats

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Abstract

The sponge Tetilla sp. (Tetractinomorpha: Tetillidae) is a common species in the eastern Mediterranean. This sponge inhabits four different habitat types differing in wave impact and irradiance levels. Two of these habitats (a shallow cave and deep water) are characterized by relatively calm water, whereas the other two (shallow exposed site and tide pools) are in turbulent water with high energy flow. The present study examined the influence of physical (depth, illumination and water motion) and biotic factors on morphology, skeletal plasticity and reproductive traits among the four spatially separated populations. Sponges from tidal pools had significantly larger body volume than sponges from deep water and from shallow caves (ANOVA: tidal-deep P<0.0001; tidal-shallow caves P<0.05). Sponges from exposed habitats were significantly larger than deep-water sponges (ANOVA: P=0.01). In addition, individuals from tide pools and from the exposed habitat had a significantly higher proportion of structural silica than sponges from the calmer deep water and from the cave sites. Oxea spicules in sponges from the calm habitats were significantly shorter than in those from the tidal pools and the exposed habitats. The percentage of spicules out of a sponge’s dry weight in individuals transplanted from deep (calm) to shallow (turbulent) water significantly increased by 21.9±12.9%. The new spicule percentage did not differ significantly from that of sponges originally from shallow water. Oocyte diameter differed significantly between habitats. The maximal size of mature eggs was found in deep-water sponges in June (97±5 μm). In the shallow habitats, a smaller maximal oocyte diameter was found in the cave, in May (56.5±3 μm). Furthermore, oocyte density in shallow-water sponges was highest in May and decreased in June (with 88.2±9 and 19.3±9 oocytes mm−2, respectively). At the same time (June), oocyte density of deep-water sponges had just reached its maximum (155±33.7 oocytes mm−2). The difference in oocyte size and density between deep- and shallow-water individuals indicates an earlier gamete release in the shallow sponge population. The results suggest that plasticity in skeletal design of this sponge indicates a trade off between spicule production and investment in reproduction.

Communicated by O. Kinne, Oldendorf/Luhe