[Coral-List] New Science publication: Sponges bring life to coral reefs

Jasper de Goeij jmdegoeij at gmail.com
Fri Oct 4 06:02:17 EDT 2013

Dear colleagues,

With great pleasure I want to draw your attention to our newest paper,
published in Science today, where we describe how sponges are at  the base
of a highly efficient recycling pathway, the so-called “sponge loop”.
Sponges retain the majority of energy and nutrients produced on coral
reefs, dissolved organic matter (DOM), and transfer it to reef fauna as
cellular debris through a rapid cell turnover. DOM transfer through the
sponge loop approaches the gross primary production rates required for the
entire coral reef ecosystem.

Hereby I send you the abstract and a link to the paper:


“Ever since Darwin’s early descriptions of coral reefs, scientists have
debated how one of the world’s most productive and diverse ecosystems can
thrive in the marine equivalent of a desert. It is an enigma how the flux
of dissolved organic matter (DOM), the largest resource produced on reefs,
is transferred to higher trophic levels. Here we show that sponges make DOM
available to fauna by rapidly expelling filter cells as detritus that is
subsequently consumed by reef fauna. This “sponge loop” was confirmed in
aquarium and in situ food web experiments, using 13C- and 15N-enriched DOM.
The DOM-sponge-fauna pathway explains why biological hot spots such as
coral reefs persist in oligotrophic seas—the reef’s paradox—and has
implications for reef ecosystem functioning and conservation strategies.”

Check out also an English subtitled Dutch TV program Labyrint TV, where we
explain the sponge loop:


Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions!

Cheers, Jasper.


Dr. Ir. J.M. de Goeij
University of Amsterdam (UvA)
Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics -
Aquatic Ecology and Ecotoxicology (IBED-AEE)


Science Park 904
P.O. Box 94248, Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel.   +31 20 5258290
Mob. +31 6 52471433

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