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Can a sponge feeder be a herbivore? Tylodina perversa (Gastropoda) feeding on Aplysina aerophoba (Demospongiae)
Becerro, M.A.; Turon, X.; Uriz, M.J.; Templado, J. (2003). Can a sponge feeder be a herbivore? Tylodina perversa (Gastropoda) feeding on Aplysina aerophoba (Demospongiae). Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 78(4): 429-438
In: Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. Academic Press: London; New York. ISSN 0024-4066, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Becerro, M.A.
  • Turon, X.
  • Uriz, M.J.
  • Templado, J.

    Feeding biology in mollusks has important biological, ecological and evolutionary implications because many of the characteristics we observe in mollusks arise from their co-evolution with diet organisms. We investigated the relationship between the opisthobranch Tylodina perversa and the sponges Aplysina aerophoba and Aplysina cavernicola in order to ascertain the trophic interactions between them. The opisthobranch preferred specimens of Aplysina aerophoba inhabiting shallow overdeep waters, ectosome of Aplysina aerophoba over choanosome, and showed no preference for Aplysina cavernicola . The sponge Aplysina cavernicola lacks the cyanobacteria abundant in the ectosome of Aplysina aerophoba . Our study shows that the opisthobranch Tylodina perversa actively selects for sponges or sponge zones with high concentration of cyanobacteria, i.e. only a fraction of the ingested material is of animal origin. Addition of cyanobacteria to symbiont-free sponge material induced a shift in mollusk preference. Our results cast doubt over the widely recognized qualification of Tylodina perversa as a carnivorous sponge feeder and show evidence that cyanobacteria determine the opisthobranch food selection. Whether this is an isolated example of how symbionts may determine trophic interactions between hosts and predators or it is widespread in benthic organisms remains an open question that requires further investigation.

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