Functioning of deep reef ecosystems

Role of epibiosis in the functioning of deep reef ecosystems

In the marine environment, a lack of hard substrate can be a limiting factor for sessile organisms. Epibiosis, whereby sessile organisms (epifauna or symbionts) attach and grow on the surfaces of substrate organisms (the host), is a common strategy to overcome this problem. In tropical waters, corals commonly serve as the host to a variety of epifaunal organisms including ophiuroids, sponges, crinoids and hydrozoans, however, the nature of these relationships (e.g. commensalistic, mutualistic or parasitic interactions; the level of host-specificity) is mostly unclear.  In this project, the student will use marine imagery collected from reefs in the Central Western Atlantic (Bermuda) and Equatorial Western Indian Ocean (Seychelles) to evaluate the extent and nature of such ecological interactions. The information collected will help to better understand functioning of mesophotic and deeper reef ecosystems and enhance our knowledge of tropical reef species biogeography. The project will be computer-based and will include a combination of image annotation, literature review and some basic statistics. Up to two students can work on the project. The students will have input on the direction of the project. 

Reading List 

Hoeksema, B.W., 2017. The hidden biodiversity of tropical coral reefs. Biodiversity, 18(1), pp.8-12.  

Maggioni, D., Montano, S., Voigt, O., Seveso, D. and Galli, P., 2020. A mesophotic hotel: the octocoral Bebryce cf. grandicalyx as a host. Ecology, 101(4), p.e02950.  

Montano, S., Fattorini, S., Parravicini, V., Berumen, M.L., Galli, P., Maggioni, D., Arrigoni, R., Seveso, D. and Strona, G., 2017. Corals hosting symbiotic hydrozoans are less susceptible to predation and disease. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 284(1869), p.20172405. 

Number of students: 1

If interested in this project, please contact