To get a better understanding of sponge feeding biology and efficiencies, the fatty acid (FA) composition and 13C natural abundance of sponges and of suspended particulate matter (SPM) from surrounding seawater was studied in different seasons at three locations. Haliclona oculata and Haliclona xena from the Oosterschelde, the Netherlands, Halichondria panicea and H. xena from Lake Veere, the Netherlands, and Aplysina aerophoba and Dysidea avara from the Mediterranean, Spain, were studied. Several FA biomarkers for different algal groups, bacteria and sponge biomass were identified in all sponges. The FA concentration variation in sponges was related to changes in fatty acid concentration in SPM. Stable carbon isotopic ratios (d13C) in sponge specific FAs showed very limited seasonal variation at all sites. Algal FAs in sponges were mainly acquired from the SPM through active filtration in all seasons. At the two sites in the Netherlands only in May (spring), the sponge specific FAs had similar d13C ratios as algal FAs, suggesting that sponges were mainly growing during spring and probably summer. During autumn and winter, they were still actively filtering, but the food collected during this period had little effect on sponge d13C values suggesting limited incorporation of filtered material into the sponge body. The sponge A. aerophoba relied mostly on the symbiotic bacteria. In conclusion, fatty acid composition in combination with stable carbon isotope analysis can be used to analyze the food source of sponges.
- marine organisms