Biodiversity of Spongosorites coralliophaga (Stephens, 1915) on coral rubble at two contrasting cold-water coral reef settings

Georgios Kazanidis, Lea-Anne Henry, J. Murray Roberts, Ursula F. M. Witte

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27 Citations (Scopus)
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Cold-water coral reefs (CWRs) in the northeastAtlantic harbor diverse sponge communities. Knowledge ofdeep-sea sponge ecology is limited and this leaves us with afragmented understanding of the ecological roles that spongesplay inCWR ecosystems. We present the first study of faunalbiodiversity associated with the massive demosponge Spongosorites coralliophaga (Stephens, 1915) that typically colonizes coral debris fields of CWRs. Our study focused on thesessile fauna inhabiting sponges mixed with coral rubble attwo contrasting settings in the northeast Atlantic: the shallowinshore (120–190 m water depth) Mingulay Reef Complex(MRC) and the deep offshore (500–1200 m) LogachevMound (LM) coral province. MRC is dominated by thescleractinian Lophelia pertusa, while LM is dominated by L.pertusa and Madrepora oculata. Nine sponge–coral rubbleassociations were collected from MRC and four from LM.Measurements of abundance, species richness, diversity,evenness, dry biomass, and composition of sessile fauna onsponge and coral rubble microhabitats were undertaken.Differences in community composition between the two regions were mainly a response to changes in fauna with depth. Fauna composition was also different between sponge and coral rubble within each region. Infauna constituted a minor component of the sponge-associated fauna inMRC but had a higher contribution in LM. Sponge and coral rubble sessile fauna in both regions was mainly composed of cnidarians and molluscs, similarly to some previous studies. Sponges’ outer surfaces atMRC were colonized by a speciesrich community with high abundance and biomass suggesting that S. coralliophaga at MRC acts as a settlement surface for various organisms but such a role is not the case at LM. This difference in the role of S. coralliophaga as a biologicalstructure is probably related to differences in fauna compositionwith depth, bottom current speed, and the quantity/quality of food supplied to the benthos.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-208
Number of pages16
JournalCoral Reefs
Issue number1
Early online date22 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016

Bibliographical note

The authors would like to thank Bill Richardson (Master), the crew of the RRS James Cook, Will Handley and the Holland-I ROV team. We also thank all the specialists in taxonomy that provided important help with identification of species: Professor Paul Tyler (ophiuroids), Dr. Tammy Horton (amphipods), Dr. Graham Oliver (bivalves), Dr. Rob van Soest (sponges), Susan Chambers, Peter Garwood, Sue Hamilton, Raimundo Blanco Pérez (polychaetes). Also we would like to thank Val Johnston (University of Aberdeen) for her contribution to cruise preparations and John Polanski (University of Aberdeen) for his help onboard the RRS James Cook. Special thanks to Dr. Alexios P. Lolas (University of Thessaly, Greece) for all the artwork. Funding for the JC073 cruise was provided by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) UK Ocean Acidification (UKOA) research programme’s Benthic Consortium project (NE/H017305/1 to JMR). JMR acknowledges support from Heriot-Watt University’s Environment and Climate Change theme. GK was funded by a Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS) Ph.D. scholarship.


  • Porifera
  • Symbionts
  • Microhabitats
  • Biodiversity


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