HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

Second Degree Name

M.S. Marine Environmental Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Bernhard Riegl

Second Advisor

Dr. Maria Cristina Diaz

Third Advisor

Dr. Jose Victor Lopez


Low light intensity habitats harbor unique sciophilous benthic communities and are a source of novel and unique sponge fauna. However, the community structure of these habitats is poorly studied to date. Thus, this study attempts to understand the composition and structure of sciophilous sponge populations in southeast Florida. Fifty limestone plates were placed on a shallow reef in Fort Lauderdale for two years (2010-2012). To identify the sponge community and their patterns over time, all plates were photographed at the end of each year. Then, samples were taken from each of the live sponge specimens observed on the plates and processed in the laboratory for taxonomical identification. A total of 45 different sponge species were found, the majority corresponding to the Poecilosclerida Order. Eighteen were identified to species level, twenty-two to genus, and five were undetermined. Eight sponges constitute new records to Florida, and four are potentially new species. The most dominant species include Oscarella sp.1, Dysidea etheria, Mycale sp.1, Halisarca caerula and Tedania ignis. Species richness significant varied among years, and species cover among sectors (inner and outer reef). However, sponge assemblages were similar between years with slightly variation between sectors. This study found a diverse and complex composition and structure of sponges that is quite distinct from the sponge assemblages on the open reefs. A guide of the biodiversity of cryptic sponge species was created to facilitate further studies in low light intensity habitats.

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