Sponges host cryptic endobionts within their network of canals, with representatives from all major animal phyla. This study investigates the endobiotic community of four sponge species (Spongia officinalis, Sarcotragus spinosulus, Ircinia cf. variabilis and Ircinia oros) that were collected during scientific trawl surveys in the coastal area of Cyprus. Moreover, it examines the endobiotic community composition of S. spinosulus in relation to sponges' volume, and various environmental variables. In general, the four sponge endobiotic communities were similar; S. officinalis had a significantly different community composition to I. cf. variabilis and I. oros. The phyla identified followed the general infauna composition of sponges, with the relative abundances of the dominant phyla, Arthropoda and Annelida, ranging from 66.9 - 83.7 % and 4.8-26.5 %, respectively. The highest intensity (I) corresponded to the isopod Cymodoce truncata in S. officinalis (I = 85 individuals/sponge) and S. spinosulus (I = 27.2 individuals/sponge). A general linear model also suggested that distance from shore influenced the total endobiotic abundance of S. spinosulus. This is the first sponge endobiotic community baseline study that covers the whole coastal area of the Republic of Cyprus and is particularly important due to potential changes of Eastern Mediterranean endobiotic communities due to the invasion through the Suez Canal of non-indigenous species.
Keywords: Ecology; Environmental science.