Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Voracious Sponges In Underwater Caves Save Reefs

Date:
January 13, 2009
Source:
NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research)
Summary:
Tropical oceans are known as the deserts of the sea. And yet this unlikely environment is the very place where the rich and fertile coral reef grows. Dutch researchers have investigated how caves in the coral reef ensure the reef's continued existence. Although sponges in these coral caves take up a lot of dissolved organic material, they scarcely grow. However, they do discard a lot of cells that in turn provide food for the organisms on the reef.

Caves in coral reefs are the largest and least well known part of the reef.
Credit: iStockphoto/Charles Humphries

Tropical oceans are known as the deserts of the sea. And yet this unlikely environment is the very place where the rich and fertile coral reef grows. Dutch researcher Jasper de Goeij investigated how caves in the coral reef ensure the reef’s continued existence. Although sponges in these coral caves take up a lot of dissolved organic material, they scarcely grow. However, they do discard a lot of cells that in turn provide food for the organisms on the reef.

Related Articles


Caves in coral reefs are the largest and least well known part of the reef. De Goeij investigated coral caves near Curacao and Indonesia. Up until now it had been assumed that cave sponges could only eat by filtering the non-dissolved particles from the seawater. This research demonstrated, however, that the caves contain far more dissolved material than non-dissolved material.

The reef’s guts

Cave sponges take up enormous quantities of dissolved organic material from seawater. The question is whether they merely take up the material or whether they also process it. De Goeij revealed that the sponges process forty percent of the material and take up sixty percent. This should lead to a doubling of the sponges' biomass every two to three days. However, cave sponges scarcely grow.

The coral caves are densely populated and so there is scarcely any space to grow. Instead of growing the cave sponges rapidly rejuvenate their filtration cells and discard their old cells. This short cell cycle is unique for multicellular organisms and to date was only known to occur in unicellular organisms. The production and breakdown process of the sponge cells mirrors that in the human intestinal tract.

Eating and being eaten

Coal reef maintains itself in a remarkable manner. The algae and corals on the reef produce dissolved organic material. Before this material flows into the open ocean sponges in the caves take it up. The sponges rapidly filter enormous quantities of water and convert dissolved material into particles. These particles are in turn consumed by the algae and corals on the reef. In this manner, the various inhabitants of the reef facilitate each other's survival.

Sponges produce many substances that could contribute to the development of new medicines, antibiotics and cosmetics. However, rearing sponges is far from easy. Unravelling how these sponges function could solve this problem and this research has contributed towards this.

Jasper de Goeij's research was funded with a grant from WOTRO Science for Global Development, one of NWO's scientific divisions. De Goeij carried out his work at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research). "Voracious Sponges In Underwater Caves Save Reefs." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 January 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090113100111.htm>.
NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research). (2009, January 13). Voracious Sponges In Underwater Caves Save Reefs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090113100111.htm
NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research). "Voracious Sponges In Underwater Caves Save Reefs." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090113100111.htm (accessed February 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, February 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Winter Storm Means Dangerous Driving in South

Winter Storm Means Dangerous Driving in South

AP (Feb. 26, 2015) A new winter storm is stretching across the south, making travel treacherous throughout the region. (Feb. 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New York City Surrounded by Ice Floes

New York City Surrounded by Ice Floes

AP (Feb. 25, 2015) The freezing temperatures that have plagued much of the eastern U.S. haven&apos;t spared New York City. The waterways around the island of Manhattan are filled with ice. (Feb. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Widespread Flooding in Northern Bolivia

Raw: Widespread Flooding in Northern Bolivia

AP (Feb. 25, 2015) Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia surveyed severe flood damage in the northern province of Pando, as people were evacuated from partially submerged houses by boat. (Feb. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Amazon Keeps Its Green Thanks To The Sahara Desert

The Amazon Keeps Its Green Thanks To The Sahara Desert

Newsy (Feb. 25, 2015) Satellite data shows the Amazon rainforest supports its lush flora with a little help from Sahara Desert dust. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins