Dr. Cristina Diaz
Dr. Robert Thacker
Dr. Guilherme Muricy
In August 2005, we held a course on the taxonomy and ecology of Caribbean sponges, with a goal of training new investigators in sponge biology. Participants (3 lecturers and 13 students) represented 8 countries in North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean. Lecture material included discussions of the current taxonomy of marine sponges, an overview of the morphological characters that differentiate sponge families, recent developments of cytological characters, and applications of molecular systematics to questions in sponge taxonomy. Students learned to identify sponges using spicule preparations and histological sections in the laboratory, as well as external morphology in the field. Field surveys of mangrove and reef communities allowed students to gain further experience identifying unfamiliar species and using several survey techniques. Students observed 32 species in mangrove habitats and 57 species on shallow reefs. Laboratory exercises examined the role of microbial symbionts in sponge metabolism.
Students demonstrated significant symbiont photosynthesis and nitrate accumulation in Chondrilla nucula and Xestospongia proxima, but found no evidence of these processes in Niphates erecta. Students presented the results of independent projects at the end of the course, including studies of taxonomy (sponge fauna under coral rubble, chimeric species, and sibling species) and ecology (anthropogenic disturbance affecting sponge communities, larval biology, sponge diseases, and photosymbionts).
Ten countries were represented by the 27 applicants. In the end the following group of 13 students from 8 countries attended the course in August 2005.
Juan Carlos Marquez
Resulting Publications and Presentations
The following publications and presentations were based on projects conducted during the 2005 sponge taxonomy course.
Diaz, M. C., R. W. Thacker and R. Collin. 2006. Taxonomy and Ecology of Caribbean Sponges: Effective Training for New Investigators. Integrative and Comparative Biology. 45(6): 1124.
Valderrama, D. F., J. C. Márquez, M. A. Romero. 2006. Aplysina fulva (Pallas, 1776) and Aplysina cauliformis (Carter, 1882) from shallow coral areas of Isla Coló, Panamá 7th International Sponge Symposium. Buzios, Brasil.
Schloeder, C., R. Thacker, and D. Gochfeld. 2006. Effect of Anthropogenic Disturbance on Sponge Community Structure and Disease Incidence. 7th International Sponge Symposium. Buzios, Brasil.
McLean, E. L. and P. M. Yoshioka. 2006. Overgrowth of gorgonians by various sponges 7th International Sponge Symposium. Buzios, Brasil.
Erwin, P. 2006. Incidence, Identity and Importance of Photosynthetic Symbionts in Shallow-Water Coral Reef Sponge Communities. 7th International Sponge Symposium. Buzios, Brasil.
Erwin, P. 2006. Incidence and Importance of Photosynthetic Symbionts in Shallow-Water Sponge Communities. Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology 2006. Orlando, Florida
Erwin, P. 2006. Sponge-Photosymbiont Associations in Caribbean Coral Reefs of Panama. Université Laval, Quebec City, Quebec.