Selective uptake of prokaryotic picoplankton by a marine sponge (Callyspongia sp.) within an oligotrophic coastal system

Document Type

Journal Article




Computing, Health and Science


Natural Sciences, Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research




Originally published as: Hanson, C. E., McLaughlin, M. J., Hyndes, G. A., & Strzelecki, J. (2009). Selective uptake of prokaryotic picoplankton by a marine sponge (Callyspongia sp.) within an oligotrophic coastal system. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 84(2), 289-297. Original article available here


Marine sponges are key players in the transfer of carbon from the pelagic microbial food web into the benthos. Selective uptake of prokaryotic picoplankton (<2 μm) by a demosponge (Callyspongia sp.), and carbon flux through this process, were examined for the first time in the oligotrophic coastal waters of southwestern Australia, where sponge abundance and biodiversity ranks among the highest in the world. Water sampling and flow rate measurements were conducted over five sampling occasions following the InEx method of Yahel et al. (2005), with heterotrophic bacteria and autotrophic Synechococcus cyanobacteria identified and enumerated by flow cytometry. Callyspongia sp. demonstrated high filtration efficiencies, particularly for high DNA (HDNA) bacteria (up to 85.3% in summer 2008) and Synechococcus (up to 91.1% in autumn 2007), however efficiency varied non-uniformly with time and food type (p < 0.01). Overall filtration efficiency for Synechococcus (86.6 ± 6.3%; mean ± s.d.) was always significantly higher (p < 0.05) than for low DNA (LDNA) bacteria (40 ± 17.2%), except during winter 2007 (p = 0.14) when ambient Synechococcus concentrations were lowest. When compared to ambient abundances of the different food types, Callyspongia sp. exhibited consistently negative selectivity for LDNA bacteria and positive selectivity for Synechococcus, while HDNA bacteria was generally a neutral or positive selection. The total carbon removal rate (sum of all prokaryotic picoplankton cells), calculated on a per unit area basis, varied significantly with time (p < 0.01), with lowest rates recorded during the winter (0.5 ± 0.4–0.6 ± 0.8 mg C m−2 d−1) and highest values recorded in summer (3.5 ± 1.9 mg C m−2 d−1). These flux estimates quantify the role of a demosponge species in the ultimate fate of prokaryotic picoplankton within the nearshore food webs of southwestern Australia, and support the conclusion that sponges actively select food particles that optimise their nutritional intake.

Article Location


Link to publisher version (DOI)