Geographic range size and species morphology determines the organization of sponge host-guest interaction networks across tropical coral reefs
Pérez-Botello AM, Dáttilo W, Simões N.
Sponges are widely spread organisms in the tropical reefs of the American Northwest-Atlantic Ocean, they structure ecosystems and provide services such as shelter, protection from predators, and food sources to a wide diversity of both vertebrates and invertebrates species. The high diversity of sponge-associated fauna can generate complex networks of species interactions over small and large spatial-temporal gradients. One way to start uncovering the organization of the sponge host-guest complex networks is to understand how the accumulated geographic area, the sponge morphology and, sponge taxonomy contributes to the connectivity of sponge species within such networks. This study is a meta-analysis based on previous sponge host-guest literature obtained in 65 scientific publications, yielding a total of 745 host-guest interactions between sponges and their associated fauna across the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. We analyzed the sponge species contribution to network organization in the Northwest Tropical Atlantic coral reefs by using the combination of seven complementary species-level descriptors and related this importance with three main traits, sponge-accumulated geographic area, functional sponge morphology, and sponges’ taxonomy bias. In general, we observed that sponges with a widespread distribution and a higher accumulated geographic area had a greater network structural contribution. Similarly, we also found that Cup-like and Massive functional morphologies trend to be shapes with a greater contribution to the interaction network organization compared to the Erect and Crust-like morphos. Lastly, we did not detect a taxonomy bias between interaction network organization and sponges’ orders. These results highlight the importance of a specific combination of sponge traits to promote the diversity of association between reef sponges and their guest species.