Amphipod diversity and metabolomics of the Antarctic sponge Dendrilla antarctica
The western Antarctic Peninsula harbours a diverse benthic marine community where dense canopies of macroalgae can dominate the shallow subtidal zone (0–40 m or greater). In the lower portion of this range (below 25–35 m depending on topography), invertebrates such as sponges and echinoderms can be found in greater abundance due to reduced competition for space from the algal species. Dendrilla antarctica (previously Dendrilla membranosa) is a common demosponge that thrives in both communities and is known for producing diterpene secondary metabolites as a defence against sympatric sea star and amphipod predators. Omnivorous mesograzers such as amphipods inhabit both communities; however, they are in greatest abundance within the macroalgal canopy. Due to the differences between habitats, it was hypothesized that specific amphipod species not susceptible to the defensive metabolites of D. antarctica would take refuge from predators in the chemically defended sponge. Analysis of the metabolome and amphipod communities from sponges in both habitats found correlations of metabolic profile to both abundance and habitat. These studies serve to inform our understanding of the complex ecosystem of the Antarctic benthos that stands to be dramatically altered by the rapidly changing climate in the years to come.