This study examined the effects of environmental conditions on the distribution of marine sponges. We measured the abundance of the sponge Batzella inops (Topsent, 1891) in two contrasting habitats: inside submerged caves and on the surfaces of submerged boulders. We hypothesised that caves are a preferred habitat for B. inops over the boulder surfaces, and tested this by descriptive (quadrate sampling) and manipulative (reciprocal transplantation) experiments. In addition, we tested B. inops in situ for the presence of photosynthetic activity. We found that B. inops is more abundant inside the caves (mean ± s.e.m., 1.2 ± 0.6 individuals m-2) than on the outside boulder surfaces (0.15 ± 0.19 individuals m-2). We also detected photosynthetic activity in B. inops in both habitats. The results of transplantation experiments suggested that the sponge prefers the transfer from inside to outside the cave rather than vice versa. Therefore, we conclude that although B. inops is more abundant in sheltered habitats, such as submerged caves, adult individuals of this sponge can survive transfer to exposed conditions. Altogether, our findings point to the plasticity of B. inops habitat preferences and may aid further research into conservation or mariculture of this and possibly other sponge species.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors thank the following individuals for their help, support and advice: Antonio Sarà, Mauricio Pansini, Micha Ilan, Gitay Yahel, Ido Izhaki, Sven Beer, Dan Kerem, Nir Hadar, Steve Breitstein, Amir Yurman, Yossi Tur-Caspa, Jonathan Gottlieb, Ran Kaufman, Robert Gvirtz, Ilia Maidanik, Jonathan Liberzon, Debbie Cvickel and Dor Edelist. The PORIFERA mailing list (https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/lists/PORIFERA.html, accessed 21 August 2018) provided helpful feedback and insight. The authors thank David Montagnes and Debbie Lindell for helpful remarks on the manuscript. This study was supported, in part, by the Hatter Grant for Maritime Studies and by a grant from the Research Authority of Haifa University to P. Nemoy.
© 2018 CSIRO.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science