Sclerosponges may hold new keys to marine paleoclimate


  • Peter K. Swart,

    1. Marine Geology and Geophysics, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami FL 33149 USA
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  • Michael Moore,

  • Chris Charles,

  • Florian Böhm


The potential for using sclerosponges, marine organisms that secrete a hard calcerous skeleton, as paleoclimatic indicators has attracted the interest of a number of scientists. Sclerosponges are composed mainly of calcium carbonate and they are very long lived. Variations in their skeletal chemistry contain proxy information regarding their environment and that information has the potential to augment, if not supplant, data from scleractinian corals in interpreting past water temperature, salinity, and productivity over periods of 100s to 1000s of years.

Sclerosponges, or calcified demosponges, contain aragonite or calcite and a small amount of siliceous material. Lang et al. [1975] report that these sponges grow within a reef framework, under coral talus in the shallower parts of a reef less than 55 m deep and on steep surfaces of the fore-reef between 55 and 145 m deep. The largest and most conspicuous of the sclerosponges described by those authors is Ceratoporella nicholsoni (Figure 1), which is reported to attain a diameter in excess of 1 m. These sponges are similar in growth habit to many massive vanities of scleractinian corals, the live sponge inhabiting the upper portion of the skeleton, while the lower portion of the skeleton is essentially dead.