Investigation of the relationship between invertebrate predation and biochemical composition, energy content, spicule armament and toxicity of benthic sponges at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica

Academic Article


  • The biochemical and energetic composition, spicule content, and toxicity of benthic sponges was investigated in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica from October through December 1984. The predominant organic constituent of sponges was soluble and insoluble protein. Levels of total protein ranged from 17.0 to 55.9% dr. wt. Levels of lipid and carbohydrate were low, ranging from 2.1 to 9.6 and 0.6 to 3.5% dr. wt, respectively. Levels of ash were high and variable (32 t0 79% dr. wt), reflecting species-specific differences in spicule contents. Calculated energy contents of sponges were low, with a mean of 9.8±3.5 kJ g-1 dr. wt; ranging from 5.1 kJ g-1 dr. wt in Sphaerotylus antarcticus to 17.4 kJ g-1 dr. wt in Dendrilla membranosa. Insoluble protein accounted for the greatest contribution to the energetic composition of the sponges, while lipid and carbohydrate combined contributed to less than 25% of the overall energy. Normalized spicule volumes of sponges ranged from 0.15 to 0.38 cm3 g-1 dr. wt. Ichthyotoxicity assays indicated that 9 (56%) of 16 antarctic sponge species were toxic. The most highly toxic species were Mycale acerata and Leucetta leptorhapsis. The high incidence of toxicity in antarctic sponges indicates that the current hypothesis suggesting a simple inverse relationship between toxicity and latitude in marine sponges is invalid. There was little correspondence between the energetic composition or spicule contents of the sponges and feeding patterns (electivity indices) of sponge-eating predators. Although the asteroid Perknaster fuscus antarcticus specializes on the highly toxic, fast-growing M. acerata, most antarctic sponge-eating predators appear to be generalists which feed on the more abundant, non- to mildly-toxic, sponge species. This feeding strategy is based on exploitation of low energy, sedentary prey, which require a minimal energy output to harvest. © 1987 Springer-Verlag.
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    Author List

  • McClintock JB
  • Start Page

  • 479
  • End Page

  • 487
  • Volume

  • 94
  • Issue

  • 3