Sponges (Phylum Porifera) are abundant, diverse and usually with high substrate coverage in coral reef environments. In 2009, we initiated the systematic study of the coralline bottoms of the Isla de Aves, the most remote island of Venezuela. The study consisted in the identification and quantification of the sponges at 16 localities along 1x10 m transects (n=60). The surveys were done in shallow and deep sites, and on the windward and leeward sides. The average sponge coverage was 8.19% (SE=0.12 max=35.4%), which is considered high in comparison with other reefs from the Caribbean Region. A total of 1450 sponges were identified, which represents 77 species, nine of them representing new records for Venezuela. There is a dominance of a few species in these communities, where Amphimedon compressa is the most abundant (16.29%), followed by Agelas sventres (14.24%), Plakortis angulospiculatus (7.44%), Scopalina ruetzleri (6.80%), Ailochroia crassa (6.73%) and Cliona dioryssa (5.74%). The average diversity (SW index) for all transects was 1.66 (SE=0.07), and the equitability 0.81 (SE=0.02). The nmMDS analysis of the sponge communities produced two main groups of localities, responding to depth. The SIMPER analysis (according to depth criteria) produced 83% of overall average dissimilarity between the groups, being A. compressa, the species that most contribute with this difference (12.38%). Depth (and its associated physics parameters) could be the most determinant factor of the differences in structure of these communities.
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Vol. 49 • No. 2-3