The following recording is an interview with Dr. Joseph
Pawlik, a marine ecologist at the University of North Carolina
in Wilmington (UNCW) who focuses his research interests on the
chemical ecology of reef sponges. Joining me for the interview
is Chris Jury who is a recently enrolled graduate student at
UNCW. Some of the topics discussed in the 45 minute podcast are
the basics of how sponges function, the ecological significance
of sponges, how sponges interact with corals and some of the
symbiotic relationship between sponges and other organisms. The
program is filled with anecdotes and stories about sponges so
even if you’re not that into sponges, I hope that this audio
presentation will be entertaining nonetheless. Enjoy.
Figure 1. Aplysina species are a highly variable
group of sponges. This is an example of a specimen growing in
shallow water. Photo courtesy of Joseph Pawlik.
Figure 2. This specimen of Aplysina is growing in a much
deeper and calmer environment than the example pictured in
Figure 3. This Mycale species is known as the orange
icing sponge. It is commonly seen growing underneath plating
morphs of Carribean corals, especially Montastrea sp
(pictured). Although the sponge might seem detrimental, it
actually protects the undersides of plating corals from the
boring sponges which weaken coral skeletons.
Figure 4. Some barrel sponges grow so large that they can
easily hold a full grown person. Although it is tempting,
divers should resist the urge to climb in for fear of damaging
such a delicate and slow growing creature. Photo courtesy of
Figure 5. This is another example of a giant barrel sponge.
It appears as if it could engulf the full grown four eye
butterfly fish in the fore ground.
Figure 6. Although the husbandry of sponges in captivity is
poorly understood, this blue sponge species has grown out from
Fiji live rock in the soft coral aquarium of Teresa