, Volume 155, Issue 2, pp 367–376 | Cite as

Do associated microbial abundances impact marine demosponge pumping rates and tissue densities?

  • Jeremy B. WeiszEmail author
  • Niels Lindquist
  • Christopher S. Martens
Community Ecology - Original Paper


The evolution of marine demosponges has led to two basic life strategies: one involving close associations with large and diverse communities of microorganisms, termed high microbial abundance (HMA) species, and one that is essentially devoid of associated microorganisms, termed low microbial abundance (LMA) species. This dichotomy has previously been suggested to correlate with morphological differences, with HMA species having a denser mesohyl and a more complex aquiferous systems composed of longer and narrower water canals that should necessitate slower seawater filtration rates. We measured mesohyl density for a variety of HMA and LMA sponges in the Florida Keys, and seawater pumping rates for a select group of these sponges using an in situ dye technique. HMA sponges were substantially denser than LMA species, and had per unit volume pumping rates 52–94% slower than the LMA sponges. These density and pumping rate differences suggest that evolutionary differences between HMA and LMA species may have resulted in profound morphological and physiological differences between the two groups. The LMA sponge body plan moves large quantities of water through their porous tissues allowing them to rapidly acquire the small particulate organic matter (POM) that supplies the majority of their nutritional needs. In contrast, the HMA sponge body plan is suited to host large and tightly packed communities of microorganisms and has an aquiferous system that increases contact time between seawater and the sponge/microbial consortium that feeds on POM, dissolved organic matter and the raw inorganic materials for chemolithotrophic sponge symbionts. The two evolutionary patterns represent different, but equally successful patterns and illustrate how associated microorganisms can potentially have substantial effects on host evolution.


Bacteria Evolution Mutualism Sponge Symbiosis 



Financial support was provided by the NOAA National Undersea Research (NURP) Center at the UNCW under grant number NA03OAR4300088; the National Science Foundation (NSF) Chemical Oceanography Division (OCE 0351893 & OCE 0531422); a NSF graduate fellowship to J. B. W.; and UNC URC grants to C. S. M, and to N. L. This work was greatly facilitated by the exceptional logistical support provided by all of the staff of the UNCW-NURP Center, including the Aquarius, dayboat, and technical diving crews. The manuscript was greatly improved based on the comments of three anonymous reviewers. This research was conducted under National Marine Sanctuary permit FKNMS-2004-036, and these experiments comply with the current laws of the state of Florida and the United States of America in which they were performed.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeremy B. Weisz
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Niels Lindquist
    • 1
  • Christopher S. Martens
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Marine SciencesUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillMorehead CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of Marine SciencesUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesOld Dominion UniversityNorfolkUSA

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