Skeletal response of Lophelia pertusa (Scleractinia) to bioeroding sponge infestation visualised with micro-computed tomography

Abstract

The skeleton morphology of the azooxanthellate cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa can be strongly influenced by invasive boring sponges that infest corallites in the still living part of the colony. Atypically swollen corallites of live Lophelia pertusa from the Galway Mound (Belgica Carbonate Mound Province, Porcupine Seabight, NE Atlantic), heavily excavated by boring organisms, have been examined with a wide range of non-destructive and destructive methods: micro-computed tomography, macro- and microscopic observations of the outer coral skeleton, longitudinal and transversal thin sections and SEM analyses of coral skeleton casts. As a result, three excavating sponge species have been distinguished within the coral skeleton: Alectona millari, Spiroxya heteroclita and Aka infesta. Furthermore, four main coral/sponge growth stages have been recognised: (1) cylindrical juvenile corallite/no sponge cavities; (2) flared juvenile corallite/linear sponge cavities (if present); (3) slightly swollen adult corallites/chambered oval sponge cavities; (4) very swollen adult corallites/widespread cavities. The inferred correlation between corallite morphology and boring sponge infestation has been detected in micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) images and confirmed in sponge trace casts and peculiar features of coral skeleton microstructure.

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Acknowledgements

We are indebted to André Freiwald (Erlangen, Germany), Jarek Stolarski (Warsaw, Poland), Antonietta Rosso (Catania, Italy) and Rossana Sanfilippo (Catania, Italy) for valuable discussions. We thank Richard G. Bromley (Copenhagen, Denmark), Helmut Zibrowius (Marseille, France) and an unknown reviewer for their constructive comments on this paper. Furthermore, we are beholden to Birgit Leipner-Mata for the preparation of thin sections, to Christian Schulbert (Erlangen, Germany) for configuring the colour balance in our figures, to the Marum Company (Bremen, Germany), especially Volker Ratmeyer, for providing us with ROV-Quest images from the study area (Meteor cruise 61/3) and Tim Beck for microscopic images of the living polyps and for the gastropod identification. We express our gratitude to the captain and crew of RV Poseidon and to the Rosenstiel Museum (Miami, Florida). The study was funded by the HERMES Project GOCE-CT-2005-511234 (Hotspot Ecosystem Research on the Margins of European Seas) and the EURODOM Project HPRN-CT-2002-00212 (European Deep Ocean Margins: a new training-through-research frontier).

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Beuck, L., Vertino, A., Stepina, E. et al. Skeletal response of Lophelia pertusa (Scleractinia) to bioeroding sponge infestation visualised with micro-computed tomography. Facies 53, 157–176 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10347-006-0094-9

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Keywords

  • Bioerosion
  • Interaction
  • Ecotype
  • Lophelia
  • Boring sponges
  • Micro-computed tomography (micro-CT)
  • Porcupine Seabight