Overview

Comprehensive Description

The Giant Barrel Sponge (Xestospongia muta) dominates Caribbean coral reef communities, where it is an important spatial competitor, increases habitat complexity, and filters seawater. Average densities of approximately 0.2 individuals per square meter are typical. This sponge has been called the "redwood of the reef" because of its size (often greater than a meter in height and diameter) and its presumed long life. (McMurray et al. 2008)

McMurray et al. (2008) reported on a multi-year study of these sponges in the Florida Keys (U.S.A.). They found that growth rates were variable and decreased with increasing size. The mean specific growth rate was 0.52 per year, but sponges grew as fast or slow as 404% or 2% year. Based on their modeling, the largest sponge in their study was estimated to be 127 years old. Although age extrapolations for very large sponges are subject to more error, McMurray et al. suggest that the largest X. muta present on Caribbean reefs may be in excess of 2,300 years old, which would rank them among the longest-lived animals on earth.

Tissues of X. muta contain Synechococcus cyanobacteria, but it appears that these symbionts are commensals that provide no clear advantage to their sponge host (López-Legentil et al. 2008).

These sponges are vulnerable to a disease syndrome affecting large coral reef sponges known as "sponge orange band’’ (SOB), which generally results in the death of the individuals on which it is observed (McMurray et al. 2008 and references therein).

Synchronous broadcast spawning of male and female Xestospongia muta has been observed (and photographed) in Belize, but the factors triggering and controlling spawning in this species remains unknown (Ritson-Williams 2005).

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Ecology

Habitat

Depth range based on 9 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 7 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 6.5 - 76.1
  Temperature range (°C): 23.246 - 27.032
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.300 - 3.012
  Salinity (PPS): 36.099 - 36.317
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.454 - 4.693
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.026 - 0.205
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.664 - 2.136

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 6.5 - 76.1

Temperature range (°C): 23.246 - 27.032

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.300 - 3.012

Salinity (PPS): 36.099 - 36.317

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.454 - 4.693

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.026 - 0.205

Silicate (umol/l): 1.664 - 2.136
 
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Xestospongia muta

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


No available public DNA sequences.

Download FASTA File
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Xestospongia muta

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Wikipedia

Giant barrel sponge

Xestospongia muta, commonly known as the giant barrel sponge, is one of the largest species of sponge found in the Caribbean. It grows at depths from 10 metres (33 ft) down to 120 metres (390 ft), and can reach a diameter of 1.8 metres (6 feet). It is brown-grey to reddish in colour, with a hard or stony texture. There is little scientific information about the species, although it has been monitored since 1997.[2] Xestospongia muta has been called the "redwood of the reef" because of its lifespan of up to 2000 years as well as its size and colour.[2]

Description[edit]

Xestospongia muta is somewhat variable in form. Typically it is barrel-shaped, with a cone-shaped cavity at the apex known as the osculum. In some locations, perhaps because of prevailing currents, it may be oval, elongate or irregular in cross section. The surface is rough, rugged, and irregular, often with buttresses, and hard in texture. The sponge grows slowly to a very large size, and a large specimen might weigh 80 kilograms (180 lb). In shallow water the colour is dark brown, but at greater depths the sponge is paler; at its maximum depth of 120 metres (390 ft) it is white, sometimes suffused with pink.[3]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Xestospongia muta is native to the Caribbean Sea, the Bahamas, Bermuda and the reefs around Florida. On the reefs off Key Largo, Florida, it is common at two individuals per square metre (yard), and the total biomass of the sponge is greater than any other reef-dwelling invertebrate in the area.[4] The sponge grows on horizontal or vertical rock surfaces, and occasionally under overhanging rocks.[3] It grows very slowly, and its growth rate slows down as the sponge's size increases. Age estimations of sponges are difficult, but the largest specimens of Xestospongia muta in the Caribbean may be over 2,300 years old, making them some of the most long-lived animals on Earth.[4]

Biology[edit]

Two cleaner shrimps (Stenopus hispidus) using a giant barrel sponge as a cleaning station

Xestospongia muta is a filter feeder. Water is continually being pumped through the interior of the sponge. Small pores in the body wall are connected to channels lined by cells with flagella, and the rhythmical beating of these draws water through the channels. Incoming particles such as bacteria, viruses, diatoms and minute particles of organic debris lodge in the increasingly narrow channels, and are phagocytosed by cells in the channel wall. The water leaves the sponge through the osculum.[2][5]

Xestospongia muta is a hermaphrodite. Clouds of sperm are emitted through the osculum, and some of these are drawn into other individual sponges where the eggs are fertilised. After a period of development inside the sponge during which the embryos feed on the egg yolks, larvae are liberated into the sea and soon settle on the seabed where they develop into juvenile sponges.[6]

Ecology[edit]

The tissues of Xestospongia muta contain symbiotic cyanobacteria which give it its brown colour. This sponge may suffer from bleaching in the same way as corals do. This is usually cyclic, with the sponge recovering its normal colouration over the period of a few months. The phenomenon happens more often in deeper water, and does not seem to be associated with heat stress and, moreover, the symbiont cyanobacteria do not play such an important part in the sponge's life as they do in the life of corals.[2]

Xestospongia muta is an important member of the reef community. It serves as a habitat for various invertebrates which live on the surface or in the interior. It is also host to a large number of microbes, which may be primary producers or involved in nitrification.[4] The tusked goby (Risor ruber) is often found within the barrel.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ van Soest, Rob. "Xestospongia muta". World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS). Retrieved 8 January 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Giant Barrel Sponge: X. muta". University of North Carolina. Retrieved 8 January 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c Colin, Patrick L. (1978). Marine Invertebrates and Plants of the Living Reef. T.F.H. Publications. p. 107–110. ISBN 978-0-86622-875-6. 
  4. ^ a b c McMurrey, S. E; Blum, J. E.; Pawlic, J.R. (2008). "Redwood of the reef: growth and age of the giant barrel sponge Xestospongia muta in the Florida Keys". Marine Biology 166 (2): 159–178. doi:10.1007/s00227-008-1014-z. 
  5. ^ Ruppert, Edward E.; Fox, Richard, S.; Barnes, Robert D. (2004). Invertebrate Zoology, 7th edition. Cengage Learning. pp. 87–88. ISBN 978-81-315-0104-7. 
  6. ^ Ritson-Williams, Raphael; Becerro, Mikel A.; Paul, Valerie J. (2005). "Spawning of the giant barrel sponge Xestospongia muta in Belize". Coral Reefs 24 (1): 160. doi:10.1007/s00338-004-0460-4. 
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