skip to main content

Title: Plastics in Porifera: The occurrence of potential microplastics in marine sponges and seawater from Bocas del Toro, Panamá
Microplastics (MP) are now considered ubiquitous across global aquatic environments. The ingestion of MP by fish and other marine vertebrates is well studied, but the ingestion of MP by marine invertebrates is not. Sponges (Phylum Porifera) are particularly understudied when it comes to MP ingestion, even though they are widely distributed across benthic habitats, can process large volumes of seawater, and can retain small particles within their water filtration systems. This study examines the presence of potential MP (PMP) in wild marine sponges and seawater collected in Bocas del Toro, Panamá. Subsurface seawater and tissue from six common Caribbean sponge species was collected in Saigon Bay, a heavily impacted, shallow-water coral reef. Seawater samples were filtered onto glass fiber filters to retain any PMP present and sponge tissue was digested with bleach, heated and filtered. Filters were examined using fluorescence microscopy to quantify PMP. An average of 107 ± 25 PMP L –1 was detected in seawater from Saigon Bay with particles ranging in size between 10 μm and ~3,000 μm. The number of PMP found in sponge tissue ranged between 6 ± 4 and 169 ± 71 PMP g –1 of dry tissue. Most particles found in sponge samples more » were very small (10–20 μm), but fibers greater than 5,000 μm were detected. Our results indicate that PMP exists within the tissues of the sponges we studied, but future studies should confirm the presence of MP in sponges using chemical analysis. Most importantly, the discrepancy between low levels of PMP in our sponge samples and high levels in the surrounding seawater highlights the potential for sponges to resist and/or egest MP. Finally, we provide a critical evaluation of our methods to improve their use in future MP work with benthic marine organisms. « less
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract
    Site description. This data package consists of data obtained from sampling surface soil (the 0-7.6 cm depth profile) in black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) dominated forest and black needlerush (Juncus roemerianus) saltmarsh along the Gulf of Mexico coastline in peninsular west-central Florida, USA. This location has a subtropical climate with mean daily temperatures ranging from 15.4 °C in January to 27.8 °C in August, and annual precipitation of 1336 mm. Precipitation falls as rain primarily between June and September. Tides are semi-diurnal, with 0.57 m median amplitudes during the year preceding sampling (U.S. NOAA National Ocean Service, Clearwater Beach, Florida, station 8726724). Sea-level rise is 4.0 ± 0.6 mm per year (1973-2020 trend, mean ± 95 % confidence interval, NOAA NOS Clearwater Beach station). The A. germinans mangrove zone is either adjacent to water or fringed on the seaward side by a narrow band of red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle). A near-monoculture of J. roemerianus is often adjacent to and immediately landward of the A. germinans zone. The transition from the mangrove to the J. roemerianus zone is variable in our study area. An abrupt edge between closed-canopy mangrove and J. roemerianus monoculture may extend for up to several hundred metersMore>>
  2. Abstract
    Excessive phosphorus (P) applications to croplands can contribute to eutrophication of surface waters through surface runoff and subsurface (leaching) losses. We analyzed leaching losses of total dissolved P (TDP) from no-till corn, hybrid poplar (Populus nigra X P. maximowiczii), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), miscanthus (Miscanthus giganteus), native grasses, and restored prairie, all planted in 2008 on former cropland in Michigan, USA. All crops except corn (13 kg P ha−1 year−1) were grown without P fertilization. Biomass was harvested at the end of each growing season except for poplar. Soil water at 1.2 m depth was sampled weekly to biweekly for TDP determination during March–November 2009–2016 using tension lysimeters. Soil test P (0–25 cm depth) was measured every autumn. Soil water TDP concentrations were usually below levels where eutrophication of surface waters is frequently observed (> 0.02 mg L−1) but often higher than in deep groundwater or nearby streams and lakes. Rates of P leaching, estimated from measured concentrations and modeled drainage, did not differ statistically among cropping systems across years; 7-year cropping system means ranged from 0.035 to 0.072 kg P ha−1 year−1 with large interannual variation. Leached P was positively related to STP, which decreased over the 7 years in all systems. These results indicate that both P-fertilized and unfertilized cropping systems mayMore>>
  3. Terrestrial runoff can negatively impact marine ecosystems through stressors including excess nutrients, freshwater, sediments, and contaminants. Severe storms, which are increasing with global climate change, generate massive inputs of runoff over short timescales (hours to days); such runoff impacted offshore reefs in the northwest Gulf of Mexico (NW GoM) following severe storms in 2016 and 2017. Several weeks after coastal flooding from these events, NW GoM reef corals, sponges, and other benthic invertebrates ∼185 km offshore experienced mortality (2016 only) and/or sub-lethal stress (both years). To assess the impact of storm-derived runoff on reef filter feeders, we characterized the bacterial communities of two sponges, Agelas clathrodes and Xestospongia muta , from offshore reefs during periods of sub-lethal stress and no stress over a three-year period (2016—2018). Sponge-associated and seawater-associated bacterial communities were altered during both flood years. Additionally, we found evidence of wastewater contamination (based on 16S rRNA gene libraries and quantitative PCR) in offshore sponge samples, but not in seawater samples, following these flood years. Signs of wastewater contamination were absent during the no-flood year. We show that flood events from severe storms have the capacity to reach offshore reef ecosystems and impact resident benthic organisms. Such impacts aremore »most readily detected if baseline data on organismal physiology and associated microbiome composition are available. This highlights the need for molecular and microbial time series of benthic organisms in near- and offshore reef ecosystems, and the continued mitigation of stormwater runoff and climate change impacts.« less
  4. Many marine habitats are at risk due to increasing frequency, intensity, and persistence of harmful algal blooms. Repeated cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (cyanoHABs) in Florida Bay, USA, kill sponges, resulting in reduced filtration and loss of shelter for benthic species. The loss of these key ecosystem functions can impact disease dynamics if fewer pathogens are filtered from the water column (dilution), if shelter loss increases host density in remaining shelters and a directly transmitted disease is present (host regulation), or if shelter loss changes species distributions and foraging patterns (trophic exposure). We show persistent impacts to hard-bottom communities relative to non-impacted communities 2 yr after a significant cyanoHAB. We compared benthic structure, invertebrate epibenthic/infaunal community composition, and parasitism among macroinvertebrates, stone crab Menippe mercenaria , and Caribbean spiny lobster Panulirus argus . On sites degraded by cyanoHABs, we found more, smaller sponges, indicating regrowth. Despite this evidence of recovery, epibenthic/infaunal invertebrate communities were distinct and more diverse on unimpacted sites. Additionally, there were fewer, smaller bivalves on impacted sites. The bivalve Tucetona pectinata , prey for stone crabs, was nearly absent on impacted sites, resulting in decreased prevalence of the apicomplexan gregarine Nematopsis sp., which is trophically transmitted from T.more »pectinata to M. mercenaria . Panulirus argus virus 1 also appears to be affected by cyanoHABs, as it was absent on impacted sites but present in 26.5% of spiny lobster on unimpacted sites. Impacts remain evident 2 yr after significant cyanoHABs, which does not bode well for these areas considering the frequent reoccurrence of blooms.« less

    Aplysina cauliformis, the Caribbean purple rope sponge, is commonly affected by Aplysina Red Band Syndrome (ARBS). This transmissible disease manifests as circular lesions with red margins and results in bare spongin fibers. Leptolyngbya spp. appear to be responsible for the characteristic red coloration but transmission studies with a sponge-derived isolate failed to establish disease, leaving the etiology of ARBS unknown. To investigate the cause of ARBS, contact transmission experiments were performed between healthy and diseased sponges separated by filters with varying pore sizes. Transmission occurred when sponges were separated by filters with pore sizes ≥ 2.5 μm, suggesting a prokaryotic pathogen(s) but not completely eliminating eukaryotic pathogen(s). Using 16S rRNA gene sequencing methods, 38 prokaryotic taxa were significantly enriched in diseased sponges, including Leptolyngbya, whereas seven taxa were only found in some, but not all, of the ARBS-affected sponges. These results do not implicate a single taxon, but rather a suite of taxa that changed in relative abundance with disease, suggesting a polymicrobial etiology as well as dysbiosis. As a better understanding of dysbiosis is gained, changes in the composition of associated prokaryotic communities may have increasing importance for evaluating and maintaining the health of individuals and imperiled coralmore »reef ecosystems.

    « less