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Press Release 14-025

Overfishing of Caribbean coral reefs favors coral-killing sponges

Caribbean-wide study shows protected coral reefs dominated by sponges with chemical defenses

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Image of a sponge smothering a living coral head on a reef

A sponge smothers a living coral head on a reef that lacks predatory angelfish.

Credit: Joe Pawlik, UNCW


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Photo of different species of sponges on a coral reef in the Bahamas.

More than five species of sponges cover a coral reef in the Bahamas.

Credit: Joe Pawlik, UNCW


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photo of Aplysina cauliformis on Agelas clathrodes

Aplysina cauliformis (violet) on Agelas clathrodes (orange); both carry potent chemicals.

Credit: Joe Pawlik, UNCW


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Large sponges on a reef with  sponge-eating fish in the Bahamas.

Large chemically-defended sponges on a reef with abundant sponge-eating fish in the Bahamas.

Credit: Joe Pawlik, UNCW


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A yellow burrowing sponge on a plate-forming stony coral.

A yellow burrowing sponge attacking a plate-forming stony coral.

Credit: Joe Pawlik, UNCW


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Close-up of the brilliantly-colored Ailochroia crassa (purple) and Agelas sp. (brown).

Close-up of the brilliantly-colored Ailochroia crassa (purple) and Agelas sp. (brown).

Credit: Joe Pawlik, UNCW


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