Journal Article

Tissue sloughing in the sponge Halichondria panicea: a fouling organism prevents being fouled


Specimens of the sponge Halichondria panicea Pallas kept in running sea-water aquaria at 15°C slough off their complete outer tissue layer in regular intervals of three weeks. Sloughing starts at the rim of the oscula and extends over the whole surface within two weeks. Microscopic inspection of the tissue flakes shows them to harbour large numbers of different live organisms, as weil as biogenic debris such as pieces of copepod carapaces and diatom frustules. No such community is found on freshly sloughed sponge tissue. After sloughing, the surface skeletal structure of H. panicea is markedly altered, as the characteristic halichondroid reticulum has been replaced by the irregular spicule array typical for the inner sponge tissue. When H. panicea is kept in closed aquaria filled with 0.2 μm filtered sea-water, no sloughing occurs during 3 months of maintenance. As those sponges shedding their outer tissue grow steadily at the same time, the tissue sloughing can be regarded as a reaction to sedimentation of organic material and settlement of small organisms on the sponge surface. The sponge thus counteracts clogging of its ostia and prevents the establishment of a micro fouling community on its surface, inhibiting fürther fouling processes.


Birgit Wolfrath
Dagmar Barthel