Marine Biodiversity

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 489–493 | Cite as

Morphological plasticity allows coral to actively overgrow the aggressive sponge Terpios hoshinota (Mauritius, Southwestern Indian Ocean)

  • Jennifer ElliottEmail author
  • Mark Patterson
  • Eugene Vitry
  • Natalie Summers
  • Céline Miternique
Short Communication


Terpios hoshinota is a threat to coral reefs. It is an encrusting sponge that kills scleractinian corals by overgrowing them. Predominantly reported from the Indo-Pacific region, the sponge seems to be progressively expanding its range by moving towards the western Indian Ocean. It is still unclear what causes its outbreaks. We report for the first time its presence at our study site at the southwestern Indian Ocean island of Mauritius (20°10′S, 57°31′E). Our surveys showed that T. hoshinota could grow linearly by 11.5 ± 3.60 mm month−1. In 2014, T. hoshinota had covered 11 % out of 500 m2 of available hard substrate. We also report a rare encounter with Montipora aequituberculata, a scleractinian coral species that was able successfully to overgrow established sponge colonies. The sponge colonies did not react to the overgrowth by putting out tendrils and made no attempt to cover the Montipora aequituberculata. The coral was able to overgrow T. hoshinota because it did not directly attack the growing front of the sponge. The high growth rate and high plasticity of M. aequituberculata helped the coral to overgrow and take the space of the sponge.


Coral-killing sponge Competition Adaptation Plasticity 



We would like to thank the Ministry of Fisheries, Government of Mauritius for allowing us to do this study. Special thanks also go to Attitude Resorts for their support. We are also grateful to Patrice Mason and Katie May Laumann for their help with the SEM and DNA analysis. This is contribution number 325 from the Marine Science Center, Northeastern University.


  1. Bergsma GS (2009) Tube-dwelling coral symbionts induce significant morphological change in Montipora. Symbiosis 49:143–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brusca RC, Brusca GJ (2003) Phylum Porifera: The Sponges. In: Invertebrates, 2nd edn. Sinauer Associates, Inc., Sunderland, Massachusetts, pp 179–208Google Scholar
  3. Bryan P (1973) Growth rate, toxicity, and distribution of the encrusting sponge, Terpios sp. (Hadromerida: Suberidae) in Guam, Mariana Islands. Micronesica 9:237–242Google Scholar
  4. de Voogd NJ, Cleary DFR, Dekker F (2013) The coral-killing sponge Terpios hoshinota invades Indonesia. Coral Reefs 32:755CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Fujii T, Keshavmurthy S, Zhou W, Hirose E, Chen CA, Reimer JD (2011) Coral-killing cyanobacteriosponge (Terpios hoshinota) on the Great Barrier Reef. Coral Reefs 30:483CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gladfelter EH, Monahan RK, Gladfelter WB (1978) Growth rates of five reef building corals in the northeastern Caribbean. Bull Mar Sci 28:728–734Google Scholar
  7. Grottoli AG, Rodrigues LJ, Palardy JE (2006) Heterotrophic plasticity and resilience in bleached corals. Nature 440:1186–1189CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Hoeksema BW, Waheed Z, de Voogd NJ (2014) Partial mortality in corals overgrown by the sponge Terpios hoshinota at Tioman Island, Peninsular Malaysia (South China Sea). Bull Mar Sci 90:989–990. doi: 10.5343/bms.2014.1047 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Liao MH, Tang SL, Hsu CM, Wen KC, Wu H, Chen WM, Wang JT, Meng PJ, Twan WH, Lu CK, Dai CF, Soong K, Chen CA (2007) The “black disease” of reef-building corals at Green Island, Taiwan – Outbreak of a cyanobacteriosponge, Terpios hoshinota (Suberitidae; Hadromerida). Zool Stud 46:520Google Scholar
  10. McAuliffe JR (1990) A rapid survey method for the estimation of density and cover in desert plant communities. J Veg Sci 1:653–656CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Montano S, Chou WH, Allen CA, Galli P, Reimer JD (2015) First record of the coral-killing sponge Terpios hoshinota in the Maldives and the Indian Ocean. Bull Mar Sci 91:97–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Pawlik JR, Steindler L, Henkel TP, Beer S, Ilan M (2007) Chemical warfare on coral reefs: Sponge metabolites differentially affect coral symbiosis in situ. Limnol Oceanogr 52:907–911CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Plucer-Rosario G (1987) The effects of substratum on the growth of Terpios, an encrusting sponge which kills corals. Coral Reefs 5:197–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Porter JW, Targett NM (1988) Allelochemical interactions between sponges and corals. Biol Bull 175:230–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Reimer JD, Mizuyama M, Nakano M, Fujii T, Hirose E (2011) Current status of the distribution of the coral-encrusting cyanobacteriosponge Terpios hoshinota in southern Japan. Galaxea 13:35–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Rützler K, Muzik K (1993) Terpios hoshinota, a new cyanobacterisponge threatening Pacific Reefs. Sci Mar 57:395–403Google Scholar
  17. Schils T (2012) Episodic Eruptions of volcanic ash trigger a reversible cascade of nuisance species outbreaks in pristine coral habitats. PLoS One 7(10):e46639. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046639 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  18. Shi Q, Liu GH, Yan HQ, Zhang HL (2012) Black disease (Terpios hoshinota): A probable cause for the rapid coral mortality at the northern reef of Yongxing Island in the South China Sea. AMBIO 41:446–455CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  19. Tang SL, Hong MJ, Liao MH, Jane WN, Chiang PW, Chen CB, Chen CA (2011) Bacteria associated with an encrusting sponge (Terpios hoshinota) and the corals partially covered by the sponge. Environ Microbiol 13:1179–1191. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2010.02418.x CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Teruya T, Nakagawa S, Koyama T, Arimoto H, Kita M, Uemura D (2004) Nakiterpiosin and nikiterpiosinone, novel cytotoxic C-nor-D-homosteroids from Okinawan sponge Terpios hoshinota. Tetrahedron 60:6989–6993CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. van der Ent E, Hoeksema BW, de Voogd NJ (2015) Abundance and genetic variation of the coral-killing cyanobacteriosponge Terpios hoshinota in the Spermonde Archipelago, SW Sulawesi, Indonesia. J Mar Biol Assoc UK. doi: 10.1017/S002531541500034X Google Scholar
  22. Wang JT, Chen YY, Meng PJ, Sune YH, Hsu CM, Wei KY, Chen CA (2012) Diverse interactions between corals and the coral-killing sponge, Terpios hoshinota (Suberitidae: Hadromerida). Zool Stud 51:150–159Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Northeastern UniversityNahantUSA
  2. 2.Reef ConservationPereybereMauritius

Personalised recommendations