, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 231-237
Date: 08 Jan 2004

The diversity of relationships between Antarctic sponges and diatoms: the case of Mycale acerata Kirkpatrick, 1907 (Porifera, Demospongiae)

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The diatom assemblage associated with the Antarctic sponge Mycale acerata was studied through an analysis of the diatom frustule and pigment concentrations in both the sponge ectosome and choanosome. Sponges were sampled weekly from November 2001 to February 2002 at Terra Nova Bay, Antarctica, at a depth of 25–35 m. The most abundant diatoms were Porannulus contentus, Fragilariopsis curta, Thalassiosira cf. gracilis, T. perpusilla and Plagiotropis sp. High abundances of P. contentus were found on the sponge ectosome up to the beginning of November, before the ice melted, while later frustules were incorporated inside, indicating that P. contentus lives epibiontically on M. acerata and represents a potential food source for the sponge. The presence of other diatom species was mainly related to the summer phytoplankton bloom. The sponge incorporates diatoms from the water column and utilises them as a food source, accumulating frustules inside the choanosome. The lack of planktonic diatom frustules at the beginning of the summer indicates that they are expelled or dissolved during the cold season.