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Sponge disease in the Adriatic Sea


Cristina G. Di Camillo, DiSVA, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Via Brecce Bianche, 60127, Ancona, Italy.


A mass mortality episode involving three marine dyctioceratid sponges, Ircina variabilis, Sarcotragus spinosulus and Spongia officinalis, was observed on ‘Scoglio del Trave’ (Conero Promontory, North Adriatic Sea) in late summer 2009. In this area, calm sea and high temperatures throughout summer created unfavorable environmental conditions, leading to the outbreak of the disease. Affected specimens showed evident necrotic areas and portions with bare skeleton, and many specimens of S. spinosulus were covered with a white mat of cyanobacteria. In September 2009, about 22% of these demosponges suffered from this disease. The mortality event ceased when sea temperature dropped below 20 °C. Small specimens turned out to be more sensitive to the diseases, whereas the damaged tissues of large specimens were able to recover. In October, the damaged specimens were detached by the rough sea and more than 900 beached sponges were found along the 1-km-long beach, showing the seriousness of the phenomenon, which probably involved not only the area studied but also areas adjacent to it.