CHEMICAL ECOLOGY OF THE EXCAVATING SPONGES CLIONA APRICA, C. CARIBBAEA, C. DELITRIX AND C. TENUIS.
The Caribbean encrusting and excavating sponges Cliona aprica, C. caribbaea, C. delitrix and C. tenuis (Porifera, Hadromerida, Clionaidae), aggresively undermine and displace live coral tissue. At San Andrés island and Islas del Rosario (Colombian Caribbean), in all 145 observed cases of direct contact of the sponges C. aprica, C. caribbaea and C. tenuis with 17 coral species, corals showed unhealthy signs in their tissue. It was also noticed that the surface of these sponges is colonized by few organisms and that they are rarely preyed upon. To establish the possible use of chemical substances by these sponges in competition for space with corals (allelopathy), as inhibitors of larval settlement (antifouling), and as feeding deterrents against generalist fish (antipredatory), the activity of crude organic extracts was experimentally evaluated. Extracts were prepared in methanol and 1:2 metanol:dichloromethane and incorporated in experimental media at the natural concentration within the sponges. Using an unpublished method being developed by J. Pawlik (University of North Caroline at Wilmington) and M. Ilan (Tel Aviv University), PhytagelTM disks with crude extracts of each of the four sponge species, placed on the coral Montastrea cavernosa, produced a greater degree of polyp mortality than control gels without extract. Gels with extracts of the sponges C. aprica and C. caribbaea + C. tenuis, served in Petri dishes and used as substratum in the field, inhibited significantly the settlement of fouling organisms, in comparison to control gels. In laboratory trials, wheat flour pellets with extracts C. delitrix and C. caribbaea + C. tenuis were significantly rejected by the omnivore reef damselfish, Stegastes partitus, whereas pellets with extract of C. aprica did not deter feeding. These results suggest that substances present in the crude organic extracts of these sponges may be responsible in part for their ability to compete for reef substrata and to defend themselves from potential aggressors.
Cliona; Encrusting excavating sponges; Space competition; Allelopathy;Antifouling; Antipredatory
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