The giant barrel sponge facilitates the recovery of coral fragments after a tropical storm in Taiwan
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The sponges harboring large coral colonies were morphologically distorted but did not seem to be affected by the presence of these corals. Tests with fluorescent dye indicated the sponges still had a functioning pumping system, even when the osculum was entirely covered by the coral. In the Caribbean, Xestospongia muta, has been observed to offer stony corals shelter from strong hydrodynamic forces (Hammerman and Garcia-Hernandez 2016). It seems that under the right circumstances coral larvae or coral fragments can find refuge in or on giant barrel sponges, and in the case of Taiwan the presence of the giant barrel sponges seems to enhance coral reef recovery after tropical storms.
The research was funded by NWO-Aspasia Grant 015.010.030 and MOST 105-2621-B-346-002, Taiwan.
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