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Microbial associations in sponges. I. Ecology, physiology and microbial populations of coral reef sponges

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Illumination, current strength and physical turbulence influence the distribution of 4 tropical sponges. Three sponges with cyanobacteria in exposed tissues grow only in poen shallow habitats: Pericharax heteroraphis in moderate-current, lowturbulence regions on the reef slope; Jaspis stellifera in low-current, moderate-turbulence regions of the outer reef flat; and Neofibularia irata in moderate-current, high-turbulence areas below the reef crest. Ircinia wistarii contains no cyanobacteria and occurs in deeper, strong-current, high-turbulence regions. N. irata agressively overgrows neighbouring corals and its growth form is influenced by the current strength. The sponges efficiently filter bacteria from the water. The efficiency is related to the aquiferous structure, particularly the size of choanocyte chambers, and is unrelated to the existing bacterial populations in sponge tissue. The numbers of bacteria associated with the sponges are proportional to the sponge mesohyl density, with the dense sponges J. stellifera and I. wistarii containing many bacteria whereas P. heteroraphis is not dense and has few bacteria.

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Communicated by G.F. Humphrey, Sydney

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Wilkinson, C.R. Microbial associations in sponges. I. Ecology, physiology and microbial populations of coral reef sponges. Mar. Biol. 49, 161–167 (1978).

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  • Sponge
  • Coral Reef
  • Reef Flat
  • Reef Slope
  • Current Strength