, 65:14 | Cite as

Psammobiosis and bioerosion: examining ecological strategies in sponges using the case example Coelocarteria singaporensis

  • Christine Hanna Lydia SchönbergEmail author
  • Swee-Cheng Lim
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Bioerosion: An interdisciplinary approach


The endolithic and endopsammic habits in sponges promote similar morphologies and offer similar ecological niches of being protected and anchored. We assessed whether this also induces similar functions, i.e., whether the commonly endopsammic sponge Coelocarteria singaporensis (Carter, 1883) shares bioerosion capabilities with clionaid endopsammic sponges such as some Spheciospongia species, enabling it to inhabit and also to expand within calcareous substrates. We studied a range of traits that are commonly accepted as evidence for bioerosion. C. singaporensis has a globular or irregular body from which fistules arise, but the fistules never penetrated calcareous substrate, and while endopsammic specimens were able to agglutinate and incorporate particles, their bodies were not embedded within calcareous rock. Tough tissue filled small cavities in adjacent rock, but only in a few exceptions did we find sponge chips in it. We encountered the only indication for possible active bioerosion in the form of sponge scars and canals in some of the substrate the sponge touched or had embedded, but these areas lacked fresh erosion fissures and well-defined erosion scars and may have been made by other species. If C. singaporensis is able to bioerode, it does not seem to cut out chips to produce a regular shagreen pattern. The sponge clearly has the ability to insinuate into pre-existing cavities, but overall we regard the evidence for its bioerosion capability as circumstantial or unreliable. At this stage, we can neither confirm nor reject that this sponge may be able to bioerode calcareous material, but it appears to be unlikely.


Porifera Coelocarteria Endopsammic habit Endolithic habit Functional morphology Bioerosion traces 



The Great Barrier Reef sample was taken during fieldwork that was funded by the Australian Institute of Marine Science. Flora Siebler and Evy Büttner are acknowledged for field support. Jane Fromont, Oliver Gomez, and Andrew Hosie provided access to laboratory equipment at the Western Australian Museum. We would like to acknowledge the St. John’s Island National Marine Laboratory for providing the facility necessary for conducting the research on the Singaporean material. The Laboratory is a National Research Infrastructure under the National Research Foundation Singapore.


  1. Annandale N (1915) Some sponges parasitic on Clionidae with further notes on that family. Rec Indian Mus 11:457–478 (pl XXXIV) Google Scholar
  2. Azzini F, Calcinai B, Pansini M (2007) A new species of Coelocarteria (Porifera: Demospongiae) from Sulawesi, Indonesia. J. Mar Biol Assoc 87:1349–1353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bavestrello G, Calcinai B, Boyer M, Cerrano C, Pansini M (2002) The aquiferous system of two Oceanapia species (Porifera, Demospongiae) studied by corrosion casts. Zoomorphology 121:195–202. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Becerro MA (2008) Quantitative trends in sponge ecology research. Mar Ecol 29:167–177. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bell JJ (2004) Evidence for morphology-induced sediment settlement prevention on the tubular sponge Haliclona urceolus. Mar Biol 146:29–38. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bell JJ, McGrath E, Biggerstaff A, Bates T, Bennett H, Marlow J, Shaffer M (2015) Sediment impacts on marine sponges. Mar Pollut Bull 94:5–13. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bergquist PR (1965) The sponges of Micronesia, part 1. The Palau Archipelago. Pac Sci 19:123–204Google Scholar
  8. Bergquist PR, Fromont PJ (1988) The Marine fauna of New Zealand: Porifera, Demospongiae. Part 4, Poecilosclerida, New Zealand. Oceanogr Inst Mem 96:1–197Google Scholar
  9. Bertolino M, Cerrano C, Bavestrello G, Carella M, Pansini M, Calcinai B (2013) Diversity of Porifera in the Mediterranean coralligenous accretions, with description of a new species. ZooKeys 336:1–37. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bertolino M, Pica D, Bavestrello G, Iwasaki N, Calcinai B (2011) A new species of Triptolemma (Porifera: Pachastrellidae) from the Pacific Ocean with a revision of the genus. J Mar Biol Assoc 91:329–338. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Calcinai B, Arillo A, Cerrano C, Bavestrello G (2003) Taxonomy-related differences in the excavating micro-patterns of boring sponges. J Mar Biol Assoc 83:37–39. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Calcinai B, Bavestrello G, Cerrano C (2004) Bioerosion micro-patterns as diagnostic characteristics in boring sponges. Boll Mus Ist Biol Univ Genova 68:229–238Google Scholar
  13. Calcinai B, Cerrano C, Sarà M, Bavestrello G (2000) Boring sponges (Porifera, Demospongiae) from the Indian Ocean. Ital J Zool 67:203–219. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carter HJ (1883) Contributions to our knowledge of the Spongida. Ann Mag Nat Hist 5(12):308–329. (pls XI–XIV) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Carter HJ (1887) Report on the marine sponges, chiefly from King Island, in the Mergui Archipelago, collected for the trustees of the Indian Museum, Calcutta, by Dr. John Anderson, F.R.S., superintendent of the museum. J Linnean Soc Zool 21:61–84. (pls 5-7) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cerrano C, Calcinai B, Gioia di Camillo C, Valisano L, Bavestrello G (2007a) How and why do sponges incorporate foreign material? Strategies in Porifera. In: Custódio MR, Hajdu E, Lôbo-Hajdu G, Muricy G (eds) Porifera research: biodiversity, innovation and sustainability. Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro, pp 239–246Google Scholar
  17. Cerrano C, Sambolino P, Azzini F, Calcinai B, Bavestrello G (2007b) Growth of the massive morph of Cliona nigricans (Schmidt, 1862) (Porifera, Clionaidae) on different mineral substrata. Ital J Zool 74:13–19. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Erwin PM, Thacker RW (2007) Incidence and identity of photosynthetic symbionts in Caribbean coral reef sponge assemblages. J Mar Biol Assoc 87:1683–1692. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fang JHK, Schönberg CHL (2015) Carbonate budgets of coral reefs: recent developments in excavating sponge research. Reef Encount 30:43–45Google Scholar
  20. Fry WG, Fry PD (1979) Aspects of the functional anatomy and ecological physiology of Disyringa and some other infaunal tetractinomorph sponges. In: Lévi C, Boury-Esnault N (eds) Biologie des Spongiaires. Coll Int Centre Nat Rech Sci 291. Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, pp 335–341Google Scholar
  21. Hancock A (1849) On the excavating powers of certain sponges belonging to the genus Cliona; with descriptions of several new species, and an allied generic form. Ann Mag Nat Hist 17:321–348. (pls XII–XV) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hatch WI (1980) The implication of carbonic anhydrase in the physiological mechanism of penetration of carbonate substrata by the marine burrowing sponge Cliona celata (Demospongiae). Biol Bull 159:135–147. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hooper JNA, Hall KA, Ekins M, Erpenbeck D, Wörheide G, Jolley-Rogers G (2013) Managing and sharing the escalating number of sponge “unknowns”: the SpongeMaps Project. Integr Comp Biol 53:473–481. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ilan M, Abelson A (1995) The life of a sponge in a sandy lagoon. Biol Bull 189:363–369. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ise Y, Takeda M, Watanabe Y (2004) Psammobiontic Clionaidae (Demospongiae: Hadromerida) in lagoons of the Ryukyu Islands, southwestern Japan. Boll Mus Istit Biol Univ Genova 68:381–389Google Scholar
  26. Kelly Borges M, Bergquist PR (1988) Sponges from Matupore Island, Papua New Guinea. Indo Malayan Zool 5:121–159Google Scholar
  27. Lim SC, Tun K, Goh E (2012) Rediscovery of the Neptune’s cup sponge in Singapore: Cliona or Poterion? Contrib Mar Sci 2012:49–56Google Scholar
  28. Lim SC, de Voogd NJ, Tan KS (2008) A guide to sponges of Singapore. Science Centre Singapore, SingaporeGoogle Scholar
  29. Meyer N, Wisshak M, Schönber CHL (2019) Sponge bioerosion versus aqueous pCO2: morphometric assessment of chips and etching fissures. Facies (in press)Google Scholar
  30. Nardo GD (1839) Supra un nuovo genere di Spugne, le quali perforano le pietre ed i gusci marini. Ann Sci Regno Lombardo Veneto 9:221–226.Google Scholar
  31. Pacheco C, Carballo JL, Cortés J, Segovia J, Trejo A (2018) Excavating sponges from the Pacific of Central America, descriptions and a faunistic record. Zootaxa 4370:451–491. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Priest BW (1881) On the natural history and histology of sponges. J Quekett Microsc Club 6:229–238 (pls XVII–XVIII) Google Scholar
  33. Rützler K (1971) Bredin-Archbold-Smithsonian biological survey of Dominica: burrowing sponges, genus Siphonodictyon Bergquist, from the Caribbean. Smithsonian Contrib Zool 77:1–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rützler K (1997) The role of psammobiontic sponges in the reef community. Proc Eighth Int Coral Reef Symp 2:1393–1398Google Scholar
  35. Rützler K, Piantoni C, van Soest RWM, Díaz MC (2014) Diversity of sponges (Porifera) from cryptic habitats on the Belize barrier reef near Carrie Bow Cay. Zootaxa 3805:1–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Schupp P, Eder C, Paul V, Proksch P (1999) Distribution of secondary metabolites in the sponge Oceanapia sp. and its ecological implications. Mar Biol 135:573–580. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Schönberg CHL (2000) Bioeroding sponges common to the Central Australian Great Barrier Reef: descriptions of three new species, two new records, and additions to two previously described species. Senckenbergiana Marit 30:161–221. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schönberg CHL (2001) Small-scale distribution of Australian bioeroding sponges in shallow water. Ophelia 55:39–54. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schönberg CHL (2016a) Happy relationships between marine sponges and sediments—a review and some observations from Australia. J Mar Biol Assoc 96:493–514. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Schönberg CHL (2017) Culture, demography and biogeography of sponge science: from past conferences to strategic research? Mar Ecol 38:e12416. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schönberg CHL, Beuck L (2007) Where Topsent went wrong: Aka infesta a.k.a. Aka labyrinthica (Demospongiae: Phloeodictyidae) and implications for other Aka spp. J Mar Biol Assoc 87:1459–1476. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Schönberg CHL, Fang JKH, Carballo JL (2017a) Bioeroding sponges and the future of coral reefs. In: Bell JJ, Carballo JL (eds) Climate change, ocean acidification and sponges. Springer International, Cham, pp 179–372. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Schönberg CHL, Fang JKH, Carreiro-Silva M, Tribollet A, Wisshak M (2017b) Bioerosion: the other ocean acidification problem. ICES J Mar Sci 74:895–925. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schönberg CHL, Wisshak M (2012) The perks of being endolithic. Aquat Biol 17:1–5. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Schönberg CHL (2008) A history of sponge erosion: from past myths and hypotheses to recent approaches. In: Wisshak M, Tapanila L (eds) Current developments in bioerosion. Springer, Berlin, pp 165–202. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Schönberg CHL (2016b) Effects of dredging on filter feeder communities, with a focus on sponges. Final report of project 6.1 of the Dredging Science Node of the Western Australian Marine Science Institution. Perth.önberg_2016_FINAL.pdfGoogle Scholar
  47. Van Soest RWM, Beglinger EJ, de Voogd NJ (2010) Skeletons in confusion: a review of astrophorid sponges with (dicho-)calthrops as structural megascleres (Porifera, Demospongiae, Astrophorida). ZooKeys 68:1–88. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Van Soest RWM, Zea S, Kielman M (1994) New species of Zyzzya, Cornulella, Damiria, and Acheliderma (Porifera: Poecilosclerida), with a review of fistular genera of Iophonidae. Bijdr Dierk 64:163–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Southwell MW, Weisz JB, Martens CS, Lindquist N (2008) In situ fluxes of dissolved inorganic nitrogen from the sponge community on Conch Reef, Key Largo, Florida. Limnol Oceanogr 53:986–996. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Topsent E (1888) Contribution à l’étude des Clionides. Arch Zool Exp Gén 2:1–165 (pls I–VII) Google Scholar
  51. Van Soest RWM, Boury-Esnault N, Hooper JNA, Rützler K, de Voogd NJ, Alvarez B, Hajdu E, Pisera AB, Manconi R, Schönberg CHL, Klautau M, Picton B, Kelly M, Vacelet J, Dohrmann M, Díaz MC, Cárdenas P, Carballo JL, Ríos P, Downey R (2019) World Porifera Database. Accessed on 8 Jan 2019Google Scholar
  52. Werding B, Sanchez H (1991) Life habits and functional morphology of the sediment infaunal sponges Oceanapia oleracea and Oceanapia peltata (Porifera, Haplosclerida). Zoomorphology 110:203–208. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Wisshak M (2008) Two new dwarf Entobia ichnospecies in a diverse aphotic ichnocoenosis (Pleistocene/Rhodes, Greece). In: Wisshak M, Tapanila L (eds) Current developments in bioerosion. Springer, Berlin, pp 213–233. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine Hanna Lydia Schönberg
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Swee-Cheng Lim
    • 3
  1. 1.Oceans Graduate School and Oceans InstituteThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  2. 2.Western Australian MuseumWelshpoolAustralia
  3. 3.Tropical Marine Science InstituteNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore

Personalised recommendations