Marine Biology

, Volume 123, Issue 2, pp 313–325 | Cite as

Sponge-feeding by the Caribbean starfish Oreaster reticulatus

  • L. Wulff
Article

Abstract

The common Caribbean starfish Oreaster reticulatus (Linnaeus) feeds on sponges by everting its stomach onto a sponge and digesting the tissue, leaving behind the sponge skeleton. In the San Blas Islands, Republic of Panama, 54.2% of the 1549 starfish examined from February 1987 to June 1990 at eight sites were feeding, and 61.4% of these were feeding on sponges, representing 51 species. Sponges were fed on disproportionately heavily in comparison to their abundance, which was only 9.7% of available prey. In feeding choice experiments, 736 pieces of 34 species of common sponges from a variety of shallow-water habitats, and also 9 ind of a coral, were offered to starfish in individual underwater cages. Acceptance or rejection of sponge species was unambiguous for 31 of the 34 species, and there was a clear relationship between sponge acceptability and sponge habitat. Starfish ate 16 of 20 species that normally grow only on the reefs, but only 1 of 14 species that live in the seagrass meadows and rubble flats surrounding the reefs. The starfish live in the seagrass meadows and rubble flats, and avoid the reefs, and so the acceptable reef sponges are generally inaccessible until a storm fragments and transports them into starfish habitat. After Huricane Joan washed fragments of reef sponges into a seagrass meadow in October 1988, starfish consumed the edible species. When the seagrass meadow was experimentally seeded with tagged reef sponge fragments in June 1994, O. reticulatus consumed edible species and accumulated in the area seeded. Reef sponges that were living in a seagrass meadow, from which O. reticulatus had been absent for at least 4 yr (from 1978 to 1982), were eliminated when the starfish migrated into the area, and the sponges have been unable to recolonize up to June 1994. O. reticulatus feeding and habitat preferences appear to restrict distributions of many Caribbean reef sponge species to habitats without O. reticulatus and may have exerted significant selective pressure on defences of those sponges that live in O. reticulatus habitats.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Alcolado PM (1979) Ecological structure of the sponge fauna in a reef profile of Cuba. In: Levi C, Boury-Esnault N (eds) Biologie des spongiares. Colloques int Cent natn Rech scient 291:297–302Google Scholar
  2. Alcolado PM (1990) General features of Cuban sponge communities. In: Rützler K (ed) New prerpectives in sponge biology. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., pp 351–357Google Scholar
  3. Alvarez B, Diaz MC, Laughlin RA (1990) The sponge fauna on a fringing coral reef in Venezuela, I: composition, distribution, and abundance. In: Rützler K (ed) New prespectives in sponge biology. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., pp 358–366Google Scholar
  4. Anderson JM (1978) Studies on functional morphology in the digestive system of Oreaster reticulatus (L.) (Asteroidea). Biol Bull mar biol Lab Woods Hole 154: 1–14Google Scholar
  5. Bakus GJ, Thun MA (1979) Bioassays on the toxicity of Caribbean sponges. In: Levi C, Boury-Esnault N (eds) Biologie des spongiares. Colloques int Cent natn Rech scient 291:417–422Google Scholar
  6. Bergmann W (1949) Comparative biochemical studies on the lipids of marine invertebrates, with special reference to the sterols. J mar Res 8:137–176Google Scholar
  7. Bergquist PR (1978) Sponges. University of California Press, Berkeley, Los AngelesGoogle Scholar
  8. Bergquist PR, Hartmann WD (1969) Free amino acid patterns and the classification of the Demospongiae. Mar Biol 3:247–268Google Scholar
  9. Dayton PK (1979) Observations of growth, dispersal, and population dynamics of some sponges in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. In: Levi C, Boury-Esnault N (eds) Biologie des spongiares. Colloques int Cent natn Rech scient 291:271–282Google Scholar
  10. Dayton PK, Robilliard GA, Paine RT, Dayton LB (1974) Biological accomodation in the benthic community at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Ecol Monogr 44:105–128Google Scholar
  11. Faulkner DJ (1986) Marine natural products. Nat Prod Rep (Lond) 3:1–33Google Scholar
  12. Faulkner DJ (1987) Marine natural products. Nat Prod Rep (Lond) 4:539–576Google Scholar
  13. Faulkner DJ (1988) Marine natural products. Nat Prod Rep (Lond) 5:613–663Google Scholar
  14. Faulkner DJ (1990) Marine natural products. Nat Prod Rep (Lond) 7:269–309Google Scholar
  15. Faulkner DJ, Giselin MT (1983) Chemical defense and evolutionary ecology of dorid nudibranchs and some other opistobranch gastropods. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 13:295–310Google Scholar
  16. Green G, Gomez P, Bakus G (1990) Anti-microbial and ichthyotoxic properties of marine sponges from Mexican waters. In: Rützler K (ed) New perspectives in sponge biology, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., pp 109–114Google Scholar
  17. Hay ME, Fenical W (1988) Marine plant-herbivore interactions: the ecology of chemical defense. A Rev Ecol Syst 19:111–145Google Scholar
  18. Hoppe WF (1988) Growth, regeneration and predation in three species of large coral reef sponges. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 50:117–125Google Scholar
  19. Laubenfels MW de (1950) The porifera of the Bermuda Archipelago. Trans zool Soc Lond 27:1–201Google Scholar
  20. Lewis SM (1985) Herbivory on coral reefs: algal susceptibility to herbivorous fishes. Oecologia 65:370–375Google Scholar
  21. McClintock JB (1987) Investigation of the relationship between invertebrate predation and biochemical composition, energy content, spicule armament, and toxicity of benthic sponges at McMurdo Sound, Antarcitica. Mar Biol 94:479–487Google Scholar
  22. Meylan A (1990) Nutritional characteristics of sponges in the diet of the hawksbill turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata. In: Rützler K (ed) New perspectives in sponge biology. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., pp 472–477Google Scholar
  23. Paine RT (1966) Food web complexity and species diversity. Am Nat 100:65–75Google Scholar
  24. Pawlik JR (1993) Marine invertebrate chemical defenses. Chem Rev 93:1911–1922Google Scholar
  25. Pawlik JR, Kernan MR, Molinski TF, Harper MK, Faulkner DJ (1988) Defensive chemicals of the Spanish dancer nudibranch Hexabranchus sanguineus and its egg ribbons: macrolides derived from a sponge diet. J exp mar Biol Ecol 119:99–109Google Scholar
  26. Pulitzer-Finale G (1986) A collection of West Indian demospongiae (Porifera). Annali Mus civ Stor nat Giacomo Doria 86:65–216Google Scholar
  27. Randall JE, Hartman WD (1968) Sponge-feeding fishes of the West Indies. Mar Biol 1:216–225Google Scholar
  28. Reiswig HM (1973) Population dynamics of three Jamaican demospongiae. Bull mar Sci 23:191–226Google Scholar
  29. Rogers SD, Paul VJ (1991) Chemical defenses of three Glossodoris nudibranchI's and their dietary Hyrtios sponges. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 77:221–232Google Scholar
  30. Scheibling RE (1979) The ecology of Oreaster reticulatus (L.) (Echinodermata: Asteroidea) in the Caribbean. PhD thesis, McGill University, MontrealGoogle Scholar
  31. Scheibling RE (1980a) Abundance, spatial distribution, and size structure of populations of Oreaster reticulatus (Echinodermata: Asteroidea) in seagrass beds. Mar Biol 57:95–105Google Scholar
  32. Scheibling RE (1980b) Abundance, spatial distribution, and size structure of populations of Oreaster reticulatus (Echinodermata: Asteroidea) on sand bottoms. Mar Biol 57:107–119Google Scholar
  33. Scheibling RE (1980c) Dynamics and feeding activity of high-density aggregations of Oreaster reticulatus (Echinodermata: Asteroidea) in a sand patch habitat. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 2:321–327Google Scholar
  34. Scheibling RE (1980d) Homing movements of Oreaster reticulatus (L.) (Echinodermata: Asteroidea) when experimentally translocated from a sand patch habitat. Mar Behav Physiol 7:213–223Google Scholar
  35. Scheibling RE (1980e) The microphagous feeding behavior of Oreaster reticulatus (Echinodermata: Asteroidea). Mar Behav Physiol 7:225–232Google Scholar
  36. Scheibling RE (1981a) The annual reproductive cycle of Oreaster reticulatus (L.) (Echinodermata: Asteroidea) and interpopulation differences in reproductive capacity. J exp mar Biol Ecol 54:39–54Google Scholar
  37. Scheibling RE (1981b) Optimal foraging movements of Oreaster reticulatus (L.) (Echinodermata: Asteroidea). J exp mar Biol Ecol 51: 173–185Google Scholar
  38. Scheibling RE (1981c) Growth and respiration rate of juvenile Oreaster reticulatus (L.) (Echinodermata: Asteroidea) on fish and algal diets. Comp Biochem Physiol 69A:175–176Google Scholar
  39. Scheibling RE (1982a) Feeding habits of Oreaster reticulatus (Echinodermata: Asteroidea). Bull mar Sci 32:504–510Google Scholar
  40. Scheibling RE (1982b) Habitat utilization and bioturbation by Oreaster reticulatus (Asteroidea) and Meoma ventricosa (Echinoidea) in a subtidal sand patch. Bull mar Sci 32:624–629Google Scholar
  41. Scheibling RE (1985) Directional movement in a sea star (Oreaster reticulatus): adaptive significance and ecological consequences. In: Rankin MA (ed) Migration: mechanisms and adaptive significance. Univ Texas Contr mar Sci 27 (Supplement): 244–256Google Scholar
  42. Schmahl GP (1990) Community structure and ecology of sponges associated with four Southern Florida coral reefs. In: Rützler K (ed) New perspectives in sponge biology. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., pp 376–383Google Scholar
  43. Sheild CJ, Witman JD (1993) The impact of Henricia sanguinolenta (O.F. Muller) (Echinodermata: Asteroidea) predation on the finger sponges, Isodictya spp. J exp mar Bio Ecol 166:107–133Google Scholar
  44. Sloan NA (1980) Aspects of the feeding biology of asteroids. Oceanog mar Biol A Rev 18:57–124Google Scholar
  45. Thomas LP (1960) A note on the feeding habits of the West Indian sea star Oreaster reticulatus (Linnaeus). Q J Fla Acad Sci 23:167–168Google Scholar
  46. Wiedenmayer F (1977) Shallow-water sponges of the western Bahamas. Birkhauser Verlag, BaselGoogle Scholar
  47. Wulff JL (1988) Fish predation on cryptic sponges of Caribbean coral reefs. Am Zool 28: p 166Google Scholar
  48. Wulff JL (1990) Patterns and processes of size change in Caribbean demosponges of branching morphology. In: Rützler K (ed) New perspectives in sponge biology. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., pp 425–435Google Scholar
  49. Wulff JL (1991) Asexual fragmentation, genotype success, and population dynamics of erect branching sponges. J exp mar Biol Ecol 149:227–247Google Scholar
  50. Wulff JL (1994) Sponge-feeding by Caribbean angelfishes, trunk-fishes, and filefishes. In: Soest RWM van, Kempen TMG van, Braekman J-C (eds) Sponges in time and space. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, pp 265–271Google Scholar
  51. Wulff JL (1995) Hurricane effects on survival and orientation of large erect coral reef sponges. Coral Reefs 14:55–61Google Scholar
  52. Wulff JL (in preparation) Mutualism among species of coral reef sponges.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Wulff
    • 1
  1. 1.Matitime Studies ProgramWilliams College-Mystic SeaportMysticUSA

Personalised recommendations