An Ecological Evaluation of the West Indian Demosponge Anthosigmella Varians (Hadromerida: Spirastrellidae)
The sponge Anthosigmella varians (Duch. and Mich.) de Laubenfels, has been found to occur frequently in Puerto Rico and adjacent islands inhabiting a wide spectrum of benthic community types at depths of 1 to 16 m. There are two principal ecophenotyplc forms. Gigantic encrustations (forma incrustans) measure up to 46.4 m2 and occur where there are spacious formations of hard, flat, or relatively even substrate exposed to heavy wave action and/or strong currents. A smaller massive form which can be digitate, globous, or amorphous is associated with low energy environments. A. varians and corals have similar habitat requirements and are encountered in a competitive interaction for substrate dominance that results in the encrustation of the coral by sponge. Twelve species of corals succumb to the competitive superiority of A. varians. A. varians was found to be a coral-boring species making cavities in the coral substrate that measure 0.6 ± 0.3 mm ID (range 0.1–1.6). The competitive superiority of A. varians over dominant climatic (K-selected) species such as corals and sponges, its consequent monopolization of large spatial resources, and its ability to dissolve calcareous substrates suggest that A. varians can be a major source of disturbance to benthic community structure as it occurs in Puerto Rico.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 1978-10-01
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