The importance of micro and macro morphological variation in the adaptation of a sublittoral demosponge to current extremes
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Sponges are known to show morphological acclimation in response to habitat variation. However, previous studies have concentrated on only one aspect of morphological variation, either gross morphology or spicule morphology. Cliona celata (Grant) is common in a variety of different habitats on the south-west coast of Ireland and has been investigated with respect to morphological variability on both scales. C. celata exhibited six different gross morphological body forms (ridged, burrowing, massive, massive/chimneys, encrusting, encrusting/chimneys). The body form exhibited was correlated to local environment, showing the extent of morphological adaptation in C. celata. Sponge size varied (from 548±75 to 2,345±433 cm2) between sites, with the largest (2,345±433 cm2) being found at the most stable site where flow rates were <5 cm–1 (F>23.24, P<0.05). This may seem paradoxical as growth conditions were considered poor, but mortality and damage from material in suspension was reduced at low energy sites. At the spicule level, morphological variation was also present. Spicules at high energy sites were significantly longer, narrower and less numerous than at low energy sites (F>15.36, P<0.05). Previously, spicule variation has been associated with increased stiffness in hostile environments. However, longer, thinner spicules, as found in C. celata, may result in a more flexible sponge. This is the first study to show both gross morphological (macro) and spicule (micro) variation in a single species of sponge. However, this study only reinforces some of the previously produced information on both of these adaptations of sponges to varying environments. This study also illustrates how the results of single studies should not be used to draw conclusions for group level adaptation.
KeywordsSponge Morphological Variation Body Form Hostile Environment Morphological Variability
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