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Sponges in shallow tropical and temperate reefs are important habitats for marine invertebrate biodiversity

Abstract

Habitat availability underpins the diversity and distribution of benthic marine communities. Sponges are significant structural components of seabeds; therefore, understanding sponge-community associations are important for the effective management of marine biodiversity. Invertebrate communities were quantified from 11 sponge species having distinct morphologies from Ningaloo Reef (tropical) and Rottnest Island (temperate), Western Australia. Communities from substrate adjacent to sponges were additionally sampled for comparisons to sponge-associated fauna. Gross and fine-scale morphological features of sponge host species were quantified to assess their effects on faunal abundance and diversity. A total of 3966 individuals from 125 taxa were extracted, showing low co-occurrences of taxa from both sponges and the surrounding substrate (Ningaloo 8.9%; Rottnest 11.2%). Four out of the 11 sponges supported higher fauna abundance compared to their surrounding substrate, including Haliclona sp. NTM148 (Ningaloo; 1.21 ± 0.54 N.cm−3, 60 × higher than substrate) and Monanchora clathrata (Rottnest; 2.87 ± 1.7 N.cm−3, 32 × higher than substrate). These communities were dominated by the barnacle Acastinae sp.4 (100%) and sedentary polychaete Spionidae sp. 1 (99%), respectively, highlighting strong host-specific associations. Sponge size (volume), % of internal space, minimum diameter of internal space, and gross morphological complexity were important at explaining variation in faunal assemblage, with larger sponges having more internal space of larger minimum canal diameter supporting higher community abundance. This study highlights the significance of large and long-lived sponges as sources of unique marine biodiversity that are yet to be discovered and the importance of sponge gardens for the conservation of cryptic marine biodiversity.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the Master and crew of the Australian Institute of Marine Science RV Solander for facilitating fieldwork and sample collections at Ningaloo Reef. Thank you to Nick Thake and John Statton for field assistance at Ningaloo Reef and Rottnest Island, respectively. We would also to thank Belinda Alvarez for formally identifying the sponges used in this study. Collections were performed under permits provided by the Western Australian Department of Parks and Wildlife and Western Australian Fisheries, DPaW SF010984, WA Fisheries Exemption 2885 and WA Fisheries Exemption 3021. YYC was supported by a full scholarship for her MSc from the Ministry of Education of Taiwan. We would like to thank the Associate Editor and 4 Reviewers who all provided helpful comments to improve the manuscript.

Funding

YYC was supported by a full scholarship from the Ministry of Education of Taiwan. The research was partly funded by the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

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Contributions

Y-YC conducted field and lab work, and statistical analyses, and drafted the manuscript, JP and GK contributed to the draft of the manuscript, MAAW conceived the project, conducted field and lab work, statistical analyses, and drafted the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Muhammad Azmi Abdul Wahab.

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Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest. All data from this research are available on request.

Ethical approval

This research was conducted in accordance with the University of Western Australia’s policies, procedures, and guidelines. No specific permissions were required. Collections were performed under permits provided by the Western Australian Department of Parks and Wildlife and Western Australian Fisheries, DPaW SF010984, WA Fisheries Exemption 2885 and WA Fisheries Exemption 3021.

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Chin, YY., Prince, J., Kendrick, G. et al. Sponges in shallow tropical and temperate reefs are important habitats for marine invertebrate biodiversity. Mar Biol 167, 164 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-020-03771-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-020-03771-1