[Coral-List] Sponge Orange Band on giant barrel sponge, Xestospongia muta.

Pawlik, Joseph pawlikj at uncw.edu
Mon May 7 17:21:11 EDT 2012

Greetings, List,

There have been several messages about deaths of giant barrel sponges off Palm Beach (below).
This syndrome, called Sponge Orange Band (SOB), has been reported since the 1990s and was described in the literature in 2006.  Below are several references if you would like to know more about it.  


We have been studying the same population of barrel sponges off Key Largo since 1997, and have observed SOB sporadically from year to year.  I can offer these generalizations about the phenomenon:
(1) We have no evidence that the syndrome is infectious.
(2) When several sponges on one reef are affected, the extent of the die-off is still fairly limited, usually to one depth range or to one reef.  We are currently diving at Pickles and Conch reefs off Key Largo, and there is no evidence of a die-off here.
(3) There is no pattern to when and where sponges will be affected -- we've seen it throughout the Caribbean and at all times of the year.
(4) The syndrome is not always fatal -- in some rare cases, sponges survive with large portions of tissue removed by the syndrome.  They usually re-grow these areas.
(5) Despite the syndrome, populations of X. muta are increasing on Florida's reefs.  However, f the syndrome is killing larger size classes of sponges, it could reduce the total sponge biomass.  See:

I hope this helps,

Joseph R. Pawlik, Professor
UNCW Center for Marine Science
5600 Marvin K Moss Lane
Wilmington, NC  28409   USA
pawlikj at uncw.edu; Office:(910)962-2377; Cell:(910)232-3579
Website: http://people.uncw.edu/pawlikj/index.html
PDFs: http://people.uncw.edu/pawlikj/pubs2.html
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml..noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Reef Rescue [etichscuba at aol.com]
Sent: Monday, May 07, 2012 9:20 AM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: [Coral-List] Palm Beach barrel sponge disease update

Went diving yesterday and returned to one of the previous locations to monitor the status of the barrel sponges. Ones that were yellowed on 4/27 are now disintegrating. It appears some azure vase sponges may also be impacted. Video link:

Did another dive at a new location several miles to the south in Delray Beach. Sponges same or worse, perhaps 30% impacted with many disintegrating.

Ed Tichenor
Palm Beach County Reef Rescue
561 699-8559

Original report
On April 27, 2012, Reef Rescue divers completed two dives on Gulf Stream Reef, Boynton Beach, FL. First dive from 26 30.300 N, 80 02.065 W to 26 30.610 N, 80 02.015 W. Observed 22 barrel sponges with pigment loss. Second dive from 26 30 .755 N, 80 01.960 to 26 31.077 N, 80 01.969 W. Observed 29 barrel sponges with pigment loss. Video from the first dive is posted at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rz6Q7wt7Cx8&feature=youtu.be

On April 11, 2012, Reef Rescue performed dives in the same area and observed no barrel sponges with pigment loss.

On April 27, Reef Rescue received reports from divers to the north at Horseshoe Reef, Lake Worth and Paul’s Reef, Palm Beach that barrel sponges were “bleaching”. As in Boynton no pigment loss was observed at those locations two weeks prior.

Over the last 15 – 20 years of diving in Boynton and Palm Beach County we have observed occasional instances of barrel sponge “bleaching” and disintegration. However, never have we observed an event of this magnitude. A rough estimation is that 10 -15% of the barrel sponges observed on 4/27 were impacted.

Ed Tichenor
Palm Beach County Reef Rescue
561 699-8559
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