The cryptobiontic (cavity-dwelling) sponges from 32 growth framework reef cavities were collected over the depth range 12 m to 43 m along the leeward side of Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles. Thc resulting sample of 1,245 specimens comprised 92 species, which showed a peak in species diversity at about 18m depth. Of the 79 species that show significant restriction of their depth rangcs in this study, most are known elsewhere to have different or greater depth ranges. However, 17 eryptobiontic sponge species in Bonaire appear to be depth restricted. This suggests that there may be a depth zonation of some cryptobiontic sponges, and opens up the possibility that with more study, cryptobiontic sponges may be of some use in ancient reefs as a paleoenvironmental tool. The presence of 10 species of endolithic sponge over a broad depth range shows that sponge erosion in the cavities is widespread, although it does not appear to be intensive. Based upon the amount of preservable skeletal material produced by sponges in these reef cavities, it appears that as much as 97% of the cryptobiontic sponge sample would be lost during fossilization, leading to the conclusion that the fossil record of cryptobiontic sponges may be a very poor representation of their actual importance in fossil reef cavity systems.
Soest, R.W.M. van
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This section of the report focuses on the diversity of marine sponges from various coral reef environments around the coastal waters of St. Eustatius. A total of 36 sites were surveyed during the course of the marine expedition in order to catalogue the marine sponge fauna. Sponge surveys were performed using the roving diver technique, and presence of each sponge species was recorded by digital photography and underwater paper.
Four submersible dives off the coast of Bonaire (Caribbean Netherlands) and Klein Curaçao (Curaçao) to depths of 99.5–242 m, covering lower mesophotic and upper dysphotic zones, yielded 52 sponge specimens belonging to 31 species. Among these we identified 13 species as new to science. These are Plakinastrella stinapa n. sp., Pachastrella pacoi n. sp., Characella pachastrelloides n. sp., Geodia curacaoensis n. sp., Caminus carmabi n. sp., Discodermia adhaerens n. sp., Clathria (Microciona) acarnoides n. sp., Antho (Acarnia) pellita n. sp., Parahigginsia strongylifera n. sp., Calyx magnoculata n. sp., Neopetrosia dutchi n. sp., Neopetrosia ovata n. sp. and Neopetrosia eurystomata n. sp. We also report an euretid hexactinellid, which belongs to the rare genus Verrucocoeloidea, recently described (2014) as V. liberatorii Reiswig & Dohrmann. The remaining 18 already known species are all illustrated by photos of the habit, either in situ or ‘on deck’, but only briefly characterized in an annotated table to confirm their occurrence in the Southern Caribbean. The habitat investigated - steep limestone rocks, likely representing Pleistocene fossil reefs - is similar to deep-water fossil reefs at Barbados of which the sponges were sampled and studied by Van Soest and Stentoft (1988). A comparison is made between the two localities, showing a high degree of similarity in sponge composition: 53% of the present Bonaire-Klein Curaçao species were also retrieved at Barbados. At the level of higher taxa (genera, families) Bonaire-Klein Curaçao shared approximately 80% of its lower mesophotic and upper dysphotic sponge fauna with Barbados, despite a distance between them of 1000 km, indicating high faunal homogeneity. We also preliminarily compared the shallow-water (euphotic) sponge fauna of Curaçao with the combined data available for the Barbados, Bonaire and Klein Curaçao mesophotic and upper dysphotic sponges, which resulted in the conclusion that the two faunas show only little overlap
Sponges are major epibionts of mangrove roots in the Caribbean. Mangrove sponge communities in the Caribbean mainly consist of species that are typical to this habitat and community compositions often differ from those found on coral reefs nearby. Heterogeneity in species distributions between locations and within locations between roots is often reported. This study quantifies the diversity and abundance of mangrove associated sponges in the inner bays of Curaçao and Aruba and correlates variability of regional sponge diversity with environmental variables measured along the surveyed sites. Tannin concentrations vary between mangrove roots, and were correlated to sponge cover as a possible cause for habitat heterogeneity on a smaller scale. A total of 22 species was observed. Heterogeneity in species richness and abundance was apparent, and several sponge species were restricted in their depth of occurrence. Statistical data reduction suggests that sponge diversity may be partly explained by the distance towards adjacent reefs and to the degree of eutrophication, in which the latter is comprised of rate of planktonic respiration, total carbon and turbidity. Tannin concentrations did not determine within locality species heterogeneity as a priori postulated, but were positively related to sponge cover for reasons not yet elucidated.
Background: Saba Bank Atoll, Netherlands Antilles, is one of the three largest atolls on Earth and provides habitat for an extensive coral reef community. To improve our knowledge of this vast marine resource, a survey of biodiversity at Saba Bank included a multi-disciplinary team that sampled fishes, mollusks, crustaceans, macroalgae, and sponges.
Methodology/Principal Findings: A single member of the dive team conducted surveys of sponge biodiversity during eight dives at six locations, at depths ranging from 15 to 30 m. This preliminary assessment documented the presence of 45 species pooled across multiple locations. Rarefaction analysis estimated that only 48 to 84% of species diversity was sampled by this limited effort, clearly indicating a need for additional surveys. An analysis of historical collections from Saba and Saba Bank revealed an additional 36 species, yielding a total of 81 sponge species recorded from this area.
Conclusions/Significance: This observed species composition is similar to that found on widespread Caribbean reefs, indicating that the sponge fauna of Saba Bank is broadly representative of the Caribbean as a whole. A robust population of the giant barrel sponge, Xestospongia muta, appeared healthy with none of the signs of disease or bleaching reported from other Caribbean reefs; however, more recent reports of anchor chain damage to these sponges suggests that human activities can have dramatic impacts on these communities. Opportunities to protect this extremely large habitat should be pursued, as Saba Bank may serve as a significant reservoir of sponge species diversity.
Botanical and zoological collections may serve as archives for historical ecologi- cal research on the effects of global change and human impact on coral reef biota. Museum collections may harbour old specimens of reef-dwelling species that have become locally extinct. Such collections also help to determine whether early records of invasive species can be obtained from times when they were not yet recognized as such. A case study (2006) involving Saba Bank, Caribbean Netherlands (former Netherlands Antilles), suggests that the coral reef fauna here may have become impoverished when compared with data obtained during an earlier expedition in 1972. However, the 1972 sampling may have been incomplete, as it was performed by professional divers who were not trained taxonomists, whereas the collecting in 2006 was done by expe- rienced marine biologists who knew the taxa they were sampling. As Saba Bank has been under stress due to the anchoring of large vessels, and invasive species have been a potential threat as well, future studies are needed to obtain more insights into the changing reef biota of Saba Bank. Using this Saba Bank exam- ple, we want to address the importance of natural history collections as reser- voirs of valuable data relevant to coral reef biodiversity studies in a time of global change. As such, these collections are still underexplored and underexploited.