The life of a sponge in a sandy lagoon

  • Ilan M
  • Abelson A
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Infaunal soft-bottom invertebrates benefit from the presence of sediment, but sedimentation is po- tentially harmful for hard-bottom dwellers. Most sponges live on hard bottom, but on coral reefs in the Red Sea, the species Biemna ehrenbergi (Keller, 1889) is found ex- clusively in soft-bottom lagoons, usually in the shallowest part. This location is a sink environment, which increases the deposition of particulate organic matter. Most of the sponge body is covered by sediment, but the chimney- like siphons protrude from the sediment surface. The sponge is attached to the buried beach-rock, which reduces the risk of dislodgment during storms. Dye injected above and into the sediment revealed, for the first time, a sponge pumping interstitial water (rich with particles and nu- trients) into its aquiferous system. Visual examination of plastic replicas of the aquiferous system and electron mi- croscopical analysis of sponge tissue revealed that the transcellular ostia are mostly located on the buried surface of the sponge. The oscula, however, are located on top of the siphons; their elevated position and their ability to close combine to prevent the filtering system outflow from clogging. The transcellular ostia presumably remain open due to cellular mobility. The sponge maintains a large population of bacteriocytes, which contains bacteria of several different species. Some of these bacteria disinte- grate, and may be consumed by the sponge.

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  • M. Ilan

  • A. Abelson

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