Mutualist, Commensal, Parasite?

Is this sponge-dwelling brittlestar a benefit or potential parasite on it's host sponge?


Research on indirect interactions between fishes, sponges and corals

the Sponge Guide

New 3rd Edition Featured in Reef Encounters

GRNMS - June 2014

Some pictures from sampling mobile echinoderms at Gray's Reef this summer!

Welcome to BlazerReef

With over 20 species of marine invertebrates and even some fishes, the MarEco Lab brings the wonder of coral reefs to the Bailey Science Center.

Using science to to explore marine communities in the lab, in the field, and in the classroom.

The MarEco Lab, organized by Dr. Tim Henkel at Valdosta State University, uses field and laboratory techniques to examine competition, predation, and facilitation under ecologically relevant conditions. Working primarily with marine invertebrates, we explore the biotic and abiotic factors that structure marine communities. Of particular interest are species-specific interactions which can provide insight into the evolutionary forces that drive speciation in marine systems.

In addition to using science as a tool to understand marine communities, we use science as a tool for teaching and learning biology in the undergraduate classroom. Current biology education research interests include the role of metacognition in learning, and the use of technology and quantitative reasoning as tools for understanding and conveying complex biological processes.

Going Deeper

Catch up on all the news and latest happenings in the MarEco Lab.


Welcome to BlazerReef - a 125 gallon coral reef tank maintained by the MarEco Lab and on display in the Bailey Science Center.

Sponge larvae

Larvae from the tube sponge Callyspongia vaginalis are ~1 mm in length, mobile, and potentially delicious to the sponge-dwelling brittlestar Ophiothrix lineata

the Sponge Guide

a photographic, taxonomic guide developed with collegues at UNCW and the Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

Using Chemistry

Using a Y-maze, brittlestars are presented with chemical cues from various host sponges. The obligate Ophiothrix lineata is able to detect and select sea water that has been conditioned with the preferred sponge host.