The sponge Xestospongia muta offers shelter to the stony coral Madracis auretenra (Northwest Puerto Rico)
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Numerous species interactions abound within coral reefs, resulting in either positive, negative, or neutral outcomes. During an exploratory dive on the northwest coast of Puerto Rico, divers observed a colonial field of the yellow pencil coral, Madracis auretenra, engulfing a number of giant barrel sponges, Xestospongia muta. This took place on a reef with strong hydrodynamic forces. The nature of this interaction is complex, and may be an adaptive behavior for the coral, since the sponge offers shelter, additional substrate, and exposure to inhalant currents that may carry food and nutrients. This comes at an expense for the sponge, since it has to modify its typical morphology to accommodate the coral’s growth.
KeywordsBarrel sponge Yellow pencil coral Caribbean Coral reefs Symbiotic interaction
We would like to thank Godfried WNM van Moorsel, Ernesto Weil, and Nikolaos Schizas for their guidance and suggestions during the early and late stages of this manuscript. We would also like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive and insightful comments. Lastly, we would like to thank Samson for getting us to this remote dive site.
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