Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

Dr. Malcolm S. Hill


Sponges produce an impressive variety of secondary metabolites that perform a variety of ecological functions. Many marine sponges even harbor diverse carotenoid compounds, an unusual class of secondary metabolites that animals are incapable of producing. Furthermore, sponges serve as hosts to an astonishingly diverse microbial community that can occupy up to sixty percent of a sponge's biomass. Our research ultimately hopes to link microbial species to the production of secondary compounds, like carotenoids, and to assess the ecological role of such compounds and their effect on sponge life history strategy. This study describes the ecological distribution of two species of sponge, Clathria prolifera and Halichondria bowerbanki, from the Chesapeake Bay (Virginia, USA) as well as analyzes their general larval behavior. Culturable and non-culturable microbial communities harbored by both species of sponge were examined. A diverse group of pigmented microbes were isolated and identified as Roseobacterl Rhodobacteraceae sp, Shewanella sp, and Pseudoalteromonas sp. Our data indicates that the symbiotic bacteria may be producing compounds that influence aspects of the sponge phenotype, behavior, and distributional patterns.

Included in

Biology Commons