Community structure of the living fossil coralline sponge populations at the Grotto, Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands
Abstract:An extensive hermatypic sponge community at a popular dive site called The Grotto is described from Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The community is dominated by the coralline sponge Acanthochaetetes wellsi with a maximum density of 672 individuals m−2. The coralline sponge Astrosclera willeyana, and the lithistid sponge Leiodermatium sp. are also present but at lower densities. A. wellsi and A. willeyana were most dense at depths >9–16 m. These sponges prefer the low illumination found in specialized cryptic habitats in warm tropical waters, but are not necessarily found on coral reefs. Two previously unreported hermatypic sponge communities on Saipan and on the neighboring island of Tinian are briefly mentioned. There was no evidence that present dive practices are damaging these cryptic communities. However, owing to the slow growth of these sponges, recovery from damage to the community may take a century or more.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: July 1, 1999
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