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Predation on copepods by an Alaskan cladorhizid sponge

  • Les Watling (a1)

Abstract

Deep water cladorhizids are now generally thought to be carnivorous. While the methods of prey capture have been established for species of Asbestopluma, and perhaps Chondrocladia, information is sparse for species of Cladorhiza. The external morphology of the deep-sea Alaskan species, Cladorhiza corona, was examined immediately after collection, and then again later using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). All sponges examined had captured, and in most cases, fully encased, prey items which for the most part consisted of planktonic copepods. The hypothesis of this paper is that the primary process of prey capture is by means of a sticky substance and that prey stick to the sponge on contact. The abundant cladorhizid anisochelae do not seem to be arranged in a manner such that they can be used for prey capture as has been seen in Asbestopluma. Digestion of the prey occurs in a temporary cavity created by migrating sponge cells. Within this cavity lipid from the copepod is liberated, then absorbed and transported to the central part of the sponge. It is not known how much of the remaining tissue of the copepod is digested. Copepods have very high lipid content so their capture would provide the sponge with abundant energy from each prey item. The sponges seem to have their highest density in areas where bottom flow and migrating copepod numbers are both high.

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