ResearchPad - sponges https://www.researchpad.co Default RSS Feed en-us © 2020 Newgen KnowledgeWorks <![CDATA[Two new sponge species (Demospongiae: Chalinidae and Suberitidae) isolated from hyperarid mangroves of Qatar with notes on their potential antibacterial bioactivity]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_14508 This study presents the taxonomic description of two new sponge species that are intimately associated with the hyperarid mangrove ecosystem of Qatar. The study includes a preliminary evaluation of the sponges’ potential bioactivity against pathogens. Chalinula qatari sp. nov. is a fragile thinly encrusting sponge with a vivid maroon colour in life, often with oscular chimneys and commonly recorded on pneumatophores in the intertidal and shallow subtidal zone. Suberites luna sp. nov. is a massive globular-lobate sponge with a greenish-black colour externally and a yellowish orange colour internally, recorded on pneumatophores in the shallow subtidal zone, with large specimens near the seagrass ecosystem that surrounds the mangrove. For both species, a drug extraction protocol and an antibacterial experiment was performed. The extract of Suberites luna sp. nov. was found to be bioactive against recognized pathogens such as Staphylococcus epidermidis, Staphylococcus aureus and Enterococcus faecalis, but no bioactive activity was recorded for Chalinula qatari sp. nov. This study highlights the importance of increasing bioprospecting effort in hyperarid conditions and the importance of combining bioprospecting with taxonomic studies for the identification of novel marine drugs.

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<![CDATA[Benthic reef assemblages of the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago, tropical South-west Atlantic: Effects of depth, wave exposure and cross-shelf positioning]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c40f79ad5eed0c484386471

Oceanic islands can be relatively isolated from overfishing and pollution sources, but they are often extremely vulnerable to climate and anthropogenic stress due to their small size and unique assemblages that may rely on a limited larval supply for replenishment. Vulnerability may be especially high when these islands bear permanent human populations or are subjected to regular or intermittent fishing. Since the late 1970's, Brazil has been establishing marine protected areas (MPAs) around its four oceanic island groups, which concentrate high endemism levels and are considered peripheral outposts of the Brazilian Biogeographic Province. In 2018, the Brazilian legally marine protected area increased >10-fold, but most of the ~1,000,000 km2 of MPAs around Brazil's oceanic islands are still unknown and unprotected. Here, we provide the first detailed quantitative baseline of benthic reef assemblages, including shallow and mesophotic zones, of the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago (FNA). The archipelago is partially protected as a no-take MPA and recognized by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, but also represents the only Brazilian oceanic island with a large permanent human population (3,000 people), mass tourism (up to 90,000 people per year) and a permanent small-scale fishing community. The influence of depth, wave exposure, and distance from the island and shelf edge on the structure of benthic assemblages was assessed from benthic photoquadrats obtained in 12 sites distributed in the lee and windward shores of the archipelago. Unique assemblages and discriminating species were identified using Multivariate Regression Trees, and environmental drivers of dominant assemblages’ components were evaluated using Boosted Regression Trees. A total of 128 benthic taxa were recorded and 5 distinct assemblages were identified. Distance to the insular slope, depth and exposure were the main drivers of assemblages’ differentiation. Our results represent an important baseline for evaluating changes in benthic assemblages due to increased local and global stressors.

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<![CDATA[Screening for osteogenic activity in extracts from Irish marine organisms: The potential of Ceramium pallidum]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c084238d5eed0c484fcc3c4

Extracts and compounds derived from marine organisms have reportedly shown some osteogenic potential. As such, these bioactives may aid in the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions such as osteoporosis; helping to address inefficacies with current treatment options. In this study, 72 fractions were tested for their in vitro osteogenic activity using a human foetal osteoblast (hFOB) cell line and bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), focusing on their cytotoxic, proliferative and differentiation effects. Extracts dissolved in dimethyl sulfoxide and ethanol showed no significant osteogenic potential. However, two extracts derived from powder residues (left over from original organic extractions) caused a significant promotion of MSC differentiation. Bioactivity from powder residues derived from the epiphytic red algae Ceramium pallidum is described in detail to highlight its treatment potential. In vitro, C. pallidum was shown to promote MSC differentiation and extracellular matrix mineralisation. In vivo, this extract caused a significant increase in opercular bone growth of zebrafish larvae and a significant increase in bone density of regenerated adult caudal fins. Our findings therefore show the importance of continued screening efforts, particularly of novel extract sources, and the presence of bioactive compounds in C. pallidum extract.

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<![CDATA[Phylogenetic Reassessment of Antarctic Tetillidae (Demospongiae, Tetractinellida) Reveals New Genera and Genetic Similarity among Morphologically Distinct Species]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da66ab0ee8fa60b91f2a

Species of Tetillidae are distributed worldwide. However, some genera are unresolved and only a few genera and species of this family have been described from the Antarctic. The incorporation of 25 new COI and 18S sequences of Antarctic Tetillidae to those used recently for assessing the genera phylogeny, has allowed us to improve the resolution of some poorly resolved nodes and to confirm the monophyly of previously identified clades. Classical genera such as Craniella recovered their traditional diagnosis by moving the Antarctic Tetilla from Craniella, where they were placed in the previous family phylogeny, to Antarctotetilla gen. nov. The morphological re-examination of specimens used in the previous phylogeny and their comparison to the type material revealed misidentifications. The proposed monotypic new genus Levantinella had uncertain phylogenetic relationships depending on the gene partition used. Two more clades would require the inclusion of additional species to be formally established as new genera. The parsimony tree based on morphological characters and the secondary structure of the 18S (V4 region) almost completely matched the COI M1-M6 and the COI+18S concatenated phylogenies. Morphological synapomorphies have been identified for the genera proposed. New 15 28S (D3-D5) and 11 COI I3-M11 partitions were exclusively sequenced for the Antarctic species subset. Remarkably, species within the Antarctic genera Cinachyra (C. barbata and C. antarctica) and Antarctotetilla (A. leptoderma, A. grandis, and A. sagitta), which are clearly distinguishable morphologically, were not genetically differentiated with any of the markers assayed. Thus, as it has been reported for other Antarctic sponges, both the mitochondrial and nuclear partitions used did not differentiate species that were well characterized morphologically. Antarctic Tetillidae offers a rare example of genetically cryptic (with the traditional markers used for sponges), morphologically distinct species.

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<![CDATA[Metagenomic Analysis of the Sponge Discodermia Reveals the Production of the Cyanobacterial Natural Product Kasumigamide by ‘Entotheonella’]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db04ab0ee8fa60bc7962

Sponge metagenomes are a useful platform to mine cryptic biosynthetic gene clusters responsible for production of natural products involved in the sponge-microbe association. Since numerous sponge-derived bioactive metabolites are biosynthesized by the symbiotic bacteria, this strategy may concurrently reveal sponge-symbiont produced compounds. Accordingly, a metagenomic analysis of the Japanese marine sponge Discodermia calyx has resulted in the identification of a hybrid type I polyketide synthase-nonribosomal peptide synthetase gene (kas). Bioinformatic analysis of the gene product suggested its involvement in the biosynthesis of kasumigamide, a tetrapeptide originally isolated from freshwater free-living cyanobacterium Microcystis aeruginosa NIES-87. Subsequent investigation of the sponge metabolic profile revealed the presence of kasumigamide in the sponge extract. The kasumigamide producing bacterium was identified as an ‘Entotheonella’ sp. Moreover, an in silico analysis of kas gene homologs uncovered the presence of kas family genes in two additional bacteria from different phyla. The production of kasumigamide by distantly related multiple bacterial strains implicates horizontal gene transfer and raises the potential for a wider distribution across other bacterial groups.

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<![CDATA[A New Flow-Regulating Cell Type in the Demosponge Tethya wilhelma – Functional Cellular Anatomy of a Leuconoid Canal System]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da8dab0ee8fa60b9ec87

Demosponges possess a leucon-type canal system which is characterized by a highly complex network of canal segments and choanocyte chambers. As sponges are sessile filter feeders, their aquiferous system plays an essential role in various fundamental physiological processes. Due to the morphological and architectural complexity of the canal system and the strong interdependence between flow conditions and anatomy, our understanding of fluid dynamics throughout leuconoid systems is patchy. This paper provides comprehensive morphometric data on the general architecture of the canal system, flow measurements and detailed cellular anatomical information to help fill in the gaps. We focus on the functional cellular anatomy of the aquiferous system and discuss all relevant cell types in the context of hydrodynamic and evolutionary constraints. Our analysis is based on the canal system of the tropical demosponge Tethya wilhelma, which we studied using scanning electron microscopy. We found a hitherto undescribed cell type, the reticuloapopylocyte, which is involved in flow regulation in the choanocyte chambers. It has a highly fenestrated, grid-like morphology and covers the apopylar opening. The minute opening of the reticuloapopylocyte occurs in an opened, intermediate and closed state. These states permit a gradual regulation of the total apopylar opening area. In this paper the three states are included in a theoretical study into flow conditions which aims to draw a link between functional cellular anatomy, the hydrodynamic situation and the regular body contractions seen in T. wilhelma. This provides a basis for new hypotheses regarding the function of bypass elements and the role of hydrostatic pressure in body contractions. Our study provides insights into the local and global flow conditions in the sponge canal system and thus enhances current understanding of related physiological processes.

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<![CDATA[Do Changes in Current Flow as a Result of Arrays of Tidal Turbines Have an Effect on Benthic Communities?]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da77ab0ee8fa60b973dc

Arrays of tidal energy converters have the potential to provide clean renewable energy for future generations. Benthic communities may, however, be affected by changes in current speeds resulting from arrays of tidal converters located in areas characterised by strong currents. Current speed, together with bottom type and depth, strongly influence benthic community distributions; however the interaction of these factors in controlling benthic dynamics in high energy environments is poorly understood. The Strangford Lough Narrows, the location of SeaGen, the world’s first single full-scale, grid-compliant tidal energy extractor, is characterised by spatially heterogenous high current flows. A hydrodynamic model was used to select a range of benthic community study sites that had median flow velocities between 1.5–2.4 m/s in a depth range of 25–30 m. 25 sites were sampled for macrobenthic community structure using drop down video survey to test the sensitivity of the distribution of benthic communities to changes in the flow field. A diverse range of species were recorded which were consistent with those for high current flow environments and corresponding to very tide-swept faunal communities in the EUNIS classification. However, over the velocity range investigated, no changes in benthic communities were observed. This suggested that the high physical disturbance associated with the high current flows in the Strangford Narrows reflected the opportunistic nature of the benthic species present with individuals being continuously and randomly affected by turbulent forces and physical damage. It is concluded that during operation, the removal of energy by marine tidal energy arrays in the far-field is unlikely to have a significant effect on benthic communities in high flow environments. The results are of major significance to developers and regulators in the tidal energy industry when considering the environmental impacts for site licences.

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<![CDATA[miRNA Repertoires of Demosponges Stylissa carteri and Xestospongia testudinaria]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989dabcab0ee8fa60baf13c

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small regulatory RNAs that are involved in many biological process in eukaryotes. They play a crucial role in modulating genetic expression of their targets, which makes them integral components of transcriptional regulatory networks. As sponges (phylum Porifera) are commonly considered the most basal metazoan, the in-depth capture of miRNAs from these organisms provides additional clues to the evolution of miRNA families in metazoans. Here, we identified the core proteins involved in the biogenesis of miRNAs, and obtained evidence for bona fide miRNA sequences for two marine sponges Stylissa carteri and Xestospongia testudinaria (11 and 19 respectively). Our analysis identified several miRNAs that are conserved amongst demosponges, and revealed that all of the novel miRNAs identified in these two species are specific to the class Demospongiae.

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<![CDATA[Sponge symbioses between Xestospongia deweerdtae and Plakortis spp. are not motivated by shared chemical defense against predators]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db52ab0ee8fa60bdc984

The recently described epizoic sponge-sponge symbioses between Xestospongia deweerdtae and two species of Plakortis present an unusual series of sponge interactions. Sponges from the genus Plakortis are fierce allelopathic competitors, rich in cytotoxic secondary metabolites, and yet X. deweerdtae flourishes as an epizoic encrustation on Plakortis deweerdtaephila and Plakortis symbiotica. Our objective in this study was to evaluate the hypothesis that X. deweerdtae grows epizoic to these two species of Plakortis due to a shared chemical defense against predators. We collected free-living individuals of X. deweerdtae and symbiotic pairs from a wide geographical range to generate crude organic extracts and a series of polarity fractions from sponge extract. We tested the deterrency of these extracts against three common coral reef predators: the bluehead wrasse, Thalassoma bifasciatum, the Caribbean sharpnose puffer, Canthigaster rostrata, and the white spotwrist hermit crab, Pagurus criniticornis. While the chemical defenses of P. deweerdtaephila and P. symbiotica are more potent than those of X. deweerdtae, all of the sponge species we tested significantly deterred feeding in all three generalist predators. The free-living form of X. deweerdtae is mostly defended across the region, with a few exceptions. The associated form of X. deweerdtae is always defended, and both species of Plakortis are very strongly defended, with puffers refusing to consume extract-treated pellets until the extract was diluted to 1/256× concentration. Using diode-array high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) coupled with high-resolution mass spectrometry (LC-MS/IT-TOF), we found two secondary metabolites from P. deweerdtaephila, probably the cyclic endoperoxides plakinic acid I and plakinic acid K, in low concentrations in the associated—but not the free-living—form of X. deweerdtae, suggesting a possible translocation of defensive chemicals from the basibiont to the epibiont. Comparing the immense deterrency of Plakortis spp. extracts to the extracts of X. deweerdtae gives the impression that there may be some sharing of chemical defenses: one partner in the symbiosis is clearly more defended than the other and a small amount of its defensive chemistry may translocate to the partner. However, X. deweerdtae effectively deters predators with its own defensive chemistry. Multiple lines of evidence provide no support for the shared chemical defense hypothesis. Given the diversity of other potential food resources available to predators on coral reefs, it is improbable that the evolution of these specialized sponge-sponge symbioses has been driven by predation pressure.

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<![CDATA[Recruitment Variability of Coral Reef Sessile Communities of the Far North Great Barrier Reef]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da7dab0ee8fa60b99479

One of the key components in assessing marine sessile organism demography is determining recruitment patterns to benthic habitats. An analysis of serially deployed recruitment tiles across depth (6 and 12 m), seasons (summer and winter) and space (meters to kilometres) was used to quantify recruitment assemblage structure (abundance and percent cover) of corals, sponges, ascidians, algae and other sessile organisms from the northern sector of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Polychaetes were most abundant on recruitment titles, reaching almost 50% of total recruitment, yet covered <5% of each tile. In contrast, mean abundances of sponges, ascidians, algae, and bryozoans combined was generally less than 20% of total recruitment, with percentage cover ranging between 15–30% per tile. Coral recruitment was very low, with <1 recruit per tile identified. A hierarchal analysis of variation over a range of spatial and temporal scales showed significant spatio-temporal variation in recruitment patterns, but the highest variability occurred at the lowest spatial scale examined (1 m—among tiles). Temporal variability in recruitment of both numbers of taxa and percentage cover was also evident across both summer and winter. Recruitment across depth varied for some taxonomic groups like algae, sponges and ascidians, with greatest differences in summer. This study presents some of the first data on benthic recruitment within the northern GBR and provides a greater understanding of population ecology for coral reefs.

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<![CDATA[Marine Actinobacteria as a source of compounds for phytopathogen control: An integrative metabolic-profiling / bioactivity and taxonomical approach]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db4fab0ee8fa60bdbae6

Marine bacteria are considered as promising sources for the discovery of novel biologically active compounds. In this study, samples of sediment, invertebrate and algae were collected from the Providencia and Santa Catalina coral reef (Colombian Caribbean Sea) with the aim of isolating Actinobateria-like strain able to produce antimicrobial and quorum quenching compounds against pathogens. Several approaches were used to select actinobacterial isolates, obtaining 203 strains from all samples. According to their 16S rRNA gene sequencing, a total of 24 strains was classified within Actinobacteria represented by three genera: Streptomyces, Micromonospora, and Gordonia. In order to assess their metabolic profiles, the actinobacterial strains were grown in liquid cultures, and LC-MS-based analyses from ethyl acetate fractions were performed. Based on taxonomical classification, screening information of activity against phytopathogenic strains and quorum quenching activity, as well as metabolic profiling, six out of the 24 isolates were selected for follow-up with chemical isolation and structure identification analyses of putative metabolites involved in antimicrobial activities.

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<![CDATA[Cell Turnover and Detritus Production in Marine Sponges from Tropical and Temperate Benthic Ecosystems]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989daf9ab0ee8fa60bc3da8

This study describes in vivo cell turnover (the balance between cell proliferation and cell loss) in eight marine sponge species from tropical coral reef, mangrove and temperate Mediterranean reef ecosystems. Cell proliferation was determined through the incorporation of 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine (BrdU) and measuring the percentage of BrdU-positive cells after 6 h of continuous labeling (10 h for Chondrosia reniformis). Apoptosis was identified using an antibody against active caspase-3. Cell loss through shedding was studied quantitatively by collecting and weighing sponge-expelled detritus and qualitatively by light microscopy of sponge tissue and detritus. All species investigated displayed substantial cell proliferation, predominantly in the choanoderm, but also in the mesohyl. The majority of coral reef species (five) showed between 16.1±15.9% and 19.0±2.0% choanocyte proliferation (mean±SD) after 6 h and the Mediterranean species, C. reniformis, showed 16.6±3.2% after 10 h BrdU-labeling. Monanchora arbuscula showed lower choanocyte proliferation (8.1±3.7%), whereas the mangrove species Mycale microsigmatosa showed relatively higher levels of choanocyte proliferation (70.5±6.6%). Choanocyte proliferation in Haliclona vansoesti was variable (2.8–73.1%). Apoptosis was negligible and not the primary mechanism of cell loss involved in cell turnover. All species investigated produced significant amounts of detritus (2.5–18% detritus bodyweight−1·d−1) and cell shedding was observed in seven out of eight species. The amount of shed cells observed in histological sections may be related to differences in residence time of detritus within canals. Detritus production could not be directly linked to cell shedding due to the degraded nature of expelled cellular debris. We have demonstrated that under steady-state conditions, cell turnover through cell proliferation and cell shedding are common processes to maintain tissue homeostasis in a variety of sponge species from different ecosystems. Cell turnover is hypothesized to be the main underlying mechanism producing sponge-derived detritus, a major trophic resource transferred through sponges in benthic ecosystems, such as coral reefs.

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<![CDATA[Detection of Prokaryotic Genes in the Amphimedon queenslandica Genome]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da1fab0ee8fa60b7e3f5

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is common between prokaryotes and phagotrophic eukaryotes. In metazoans, the scale and significance of HGT remains largely unexplored but is usually linked to a close association with parasites and endosymbionts. Marine sponges (Porifera), which host many microorganisms in their tissues and lack an isolated germ line, are potential carriers of genes transferred from prokaryotes. In this study, we identified a number of potential horizontally transferred genes within the genome of the sponge, Amphimedon queenslandica. We further identified homologs of some of these genes in other sponges. The transferred genes, most of which possess catalytic activity for carbohydrate or protein metabolism, have assimilated host genome characteristics and are actively expressed. The diversity of functions contributed by the horizontally transferred genes is likely an important factor in the adaptation and evolution of A. queenslandica. These findings highlight the potential importance of HGT on the success of sponges in diverse ecological niches.

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<![CDATA[Gene Expression Dynamics Accompanying the Sponge Thermal Stress Response]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da6eab0ee8fa60b93c0d

Marine sponges are important members of coral reef ecosystems. Thus, their responses to changes in ocean chemistry and environmental conditions, particularly to higher seawater temperatures, will have potential impacts on the future of these reefs. To better understand the sponge thermal stress response, we investigated gene expression dynamics in the shallow water sponge, Haliclona tubifera (order Haplosclerida, class Demospongiae), subjected to elevated temperature. Using high-throughput transcriptome sequencing, we show that these conditions result in the activation of various processes that interact to maintain cellular homeostasis. Short-term thermal stress resulted in the induction of heat shock proteins, antioxidants, and genes involved in signal transduction and innate immunity pathways. Prolonged exposure to thermal stress affected the expression of genes involved in cellular damage repair, apoptosis, signaling and transcription. Interestingly, exposure to sublethal temperatures may improve the ability of the sponge to mitigate cellular damage under more extreme stress conditions. These insights into the potential mechanisms of adaptation and resilience of sponges contribute to a better understanding of sponge conservation status and the prediction of ecosystem trajectories under future climate conditions.

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<![CDATA[Characterization of lignocellulolytic activities from fungi isolated from the deep-sea sponge Stelletta normani]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db53ab0ee8fa60bdcd17

Extreme habitats have usually been regarded as a source of microorganisms that possess robust proteins that help enable them to survive in such harsh conditions. The deep sea can be considered an extreme habitat due to low temperatures (<5°C) and high pressure, however marine sponges survive in these habitats. While bacteria derived from deep-sea marine sponges have been studied, much less information is available on fungal biodiversity associated with these sponges. Following screening of fourteen fungi isolated from the deep-sea sponge Stelletta normani sampled at a depth of 751 metres, three halotolerant strains (TS2, TS11 and TS12) were identified which displayed high CMCase and xylanase activities. Molecular based taxonomic approaches identified these strains as Cadophora sp. TS2, Emericellopsis sp. TS11 and Pseudogymnoascus sp. TS 12. These three fungi displayed psychrotolerance and halotolerant growth on CMC and xylan as sole carbon sources, with optimal growth rates at 20°C. They produced CMCase and xylanase activities, which displayed optimal temperature and pH values of between 50–70°C and pH 5–8 respectively, together with good thermostability and halotolerance. In solid-state fermentations TS2, TS11 and TS12 produced CMCases, xylanases and peroxidase/phenol oxidases when grown on corn stover and wheat straw. This is the first time that CMCase, xylanase and peroxidase/phenol oxidase activities have been reported in these three fungal genera isolated from a marine sponge. Given the biochemical characteristics of these ligninolytic enzymes it is likely that they may prove useful in future biomass conversion strategies involving lignocellulosic materials.

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<![CDATA[The dynamics of a Mediterranean coralligenous sponge assemblage at decennial and millennial temporal scales]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db5cab0ee8fa60bdff43

This paper concerns the changes occurred over both decennial and millennial spans of time in a sponge assemblage present in coralligenous biogenic build-ups growing at 15 m depth in the Ligurian Sea (Western Mediterranean). The comparison of the sponge diversity after a time interval of about 40 years (1973–2014) showed a significant reduction in species richness (about 45%). This decrease affected mainly the massive/erect sponges, and in particular the subclass Keratosa, with a species loss of 67%, while the encrusting and cavity dwelling sponges lost the 36% and 50%, respectively. The boring sponges lost only one species (25%). This changing pattern suggested that the inner habitat of the bioconstructions was less affected by the variations of the environmental conditions or by the human pressures which, on the contrary, strongly affected the species living on the surface of the biogenic build-ups. Five cores extracted from the bioherms, dating back to 3500 YBP, allowed to analyse the siliceous spicules remained trapped in them in order to obtain taxonomic information. Changes at generic level in diversity and abundance were observed at 500/250-years intervals, ranging between 19 and 33 genera. The number of genera showed a sharp decrease since 3500–3000 to 3000–2500 YBP. After this period, the genera regularly increased until 1500–1250 YBP, from when they progressively decreased until 1000–500 YBP. Tentatively, these changes could be related to the different climatic periods that followed one another in the Mediterranean area within the considered time span. The recent depletion in sponge richness recorded in the Ligurian coralligenous can be considered relevant. In fact, the analysis of the spicules indicated that the sponges living in these coralligenous habitats remained enough stable during 3000 years, but could have lost a significant part of their biodiversity in the last decades, coinciding with a series of warming episodes.

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<![CDATA[How a collaborative integrated taxonomic effort has trained new spongiologists and improved knowledge of Martinique Island (French Antilles, eastern Caribbean Sea) marine biodiversity]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db50ab0ee8fa60bdbfcc

Although sponges are important components of benthic ecosystems of the Caribbean Sea, their diversity remained poorly investigated in the Lesser Antilles. By organizing a training course in Martinique, we wanted both to promote taxonomy and to provide a first inventory of the sponge diversity on this island. The course was like a naturalist expedition, with a field laboratory and a classroom nearby. Early-career scientists and environmental managers were trained in sponge taxonomy. We gathered unpublished data and conducted an inventory at 13 coastal sites. We explored only shallow water habitats (0–30 m), such as mangroves, reefs or rocky bottoms and underwater caves. According to this study, the sponge fauna of Martinique is currently represented by a minimum of 191 species, 134 of which we could assign species names. One third of the remaining non-identified sponge species we consider to be new to science. Martinique appears very remarkable because of its littoral marine fauna harboring sponge aggregations with high biomass and species diversity dominating over coral species. In mangroves, sponges cover about 10% of the surface of subtidal roots. Several submarine caves are true reservoirs of hidden and insufficiently described sponge diversity. Thanks to this new collaborative effort, the Eastern Caribbean has gained a significant increase of knowledge, with sponge diversity of this area potentially representing 40% of the total in the Caribbean Sea. We thus demonstrated the importance of developing exploratory and educational research in areas historically devoid of biodiversity inventories and systematics studies. Finally, we believe in the necessity to consider not only the number of species but their distribution in space to evaluate their putative contribution to ecosystem services and our willingness to preserve them.

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