An assessment of the aquaculture potential of the tropical sponges Rhopaloeides odorabile and Coscinoderma sp.

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Louden, D, Whalan, SW, Evans-Illidge, E, Wolff, C & de Nys, R 2007, 'An assessment of the aquaculture potential of the tropical sponges Rhopaloeides odorabile and Coscinoderma sp.', Aquaculture, vol. 270, no. 1-4, pp. 57-67.

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Sponge aquaculture offers the opportunity to provide a sustainable supply of bath and industrial sponges and mitigate the environmental effects of over-harvesting. The potential to develop sponge aquaculture is diverse given the variety of sponge species. However, amenability to culture and the selection of appropriate culture methods are species specific and need to be determined to provide the platform for commercial success. In this study the survival (in situ and ex situ), growth rates (in situ), and recovery processes (ex situ) were measured for explants of two sponge aquaculture candidates, Rhopaloeides odorabile Thompson et al. and Coscinoderma sp. [Phylum Porifera: Order Dictyoceratida: Family Spongiidae], cultured in the Palm Islands Group of the central Great Barrier Reef. Sponge survival was dependent on the species, experiment duration, and method of culture. For both species the highest mortality occurred within days of excision of sponge material from parent stock, and mortalities were negligible after 78 days. After 78 days, R. odorabile had highest survival ex situ (75%) and lowest in situ (60%). In contrast, Coscinoderma sp. had the lowest survival ex situ (30%) and highest in situ (90%). The total growth of R. odorabile (146.0 ± 40.3%) and Coscinoderma sp. (195.9 ± 39.8%) was not significantly different over the 21 month experimental period, but was highly variable between explants from the same individual. Both species demonstrated initial size dependent growth rates with smaller explants growing fastest over the first 78 days. Explant recovery rates were rapid for both species with a protective layer of collagen forming over the surface within 24 h. This layer was replaced by pinacoderm between 3 and 41 days after excision as the subsurface tissue reorganised to recreate a functional surface for each species, including redevelopment of the aquiferous system within 41 days for R. odorabile. R. odorabile and Coscinoderma sp. both show potential for commercial aquaculture, however, further research is required to reduce initial mortality rates and the high variability in growth rates between explants.