Trophic ecology of a freshwater sponge ( Spongilla lacustris) revealed by stable isotope analysis

Skelton, James; Strand, Mac
June 2013
Hydrobiologia;Jun2013, Vol. 709 Issue 1, p227
Academic Journal
The vital roles that sponges play in marine habitats are well-known. However, sponges inhabiting freshwaters have been largely ignored despite having widespread distributions and often high local abundances. We used natural abundance stable isotope signatures of carbon and nitrogen ( δC and δN) to infer the primary food source of the cosmopolitan freshwater sponge Spongilla lacustris. Our results suggest that S. lacustris feed largely on pelagic resources and may therefore link pelagic and benthic food webs. A facultative association between S. lacustris and endosymbiotic green algae caused S. lacustris to have significantly depleted carbon and nitrogen signatures that may reflect carbon and nitrogen exchange between sponges and their symbiotic algae. Isotopic data from specialist sponge consumers demonstrated that sponges hosting zoochlorellae were the major component of the diet of the spongillafly Climacia areolaris and the sponge-eating caddisfly Ceraclea resurgens suggesting that the symbiosis between freshwater sponges and algae is important to sponge predator trophic ecology. Our results help define the role of sponges in freshwater ecosystems and shed new light on the evolution and ecological consequences of a complex tri-trophic symbiosis involving freshwater sponges, zoochlorellae, and spongivorous insects.


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