Muhammad Abdul Wahab

Dr Muhammad Azmi Abdul Wahab

Research Scientist

Benthic invertebrate reproductive and larval ecology


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Dr Muhammad Azmi Abdul Wahab is a benthic ecologist with >10 years research experience in tropical marine environments of Australia, from shallow intertidal habitats to mesophotic reefs. His research seeks to understand biological, ecological and environmental processes that contribute to population maintenance and dynamics of marine invertebrates, in particular marine sponges and corals.

He is interested in a broad scope of topics that encompass taxonomy and systematics, biodiversity, reproduction, larval and early life-history ecology (behaviour, dispersal, recruitment and responses to stresses), in situ growth and mortality, coral aquaculture and reef restoration.

2020 - Present
Research Scientist - Benthic Invertebrate Reproductive and Larval Ecology (Australian Institute of Marine Science, AIMS)
2016 - 2020
Research Scientist - Benthic Ecology (Australian Institute of Marine Science, AIMS)
2015 - 2016
Post-doctoral benthic ecologist (Australian Institute of Marine Science, AIMS)
Post-doctoral research fellow (MBD Energy)
2011 - 2015
PhD candidate (James Cook University)
PhD (Marine ecology) Australian Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University (JCU). Thesis title: A holistic approach towards understanding population dynamics of a coral reef sponge
Bachelor of Science (Hons) (Aquaculture). First Class. JCU, Townsville, Australia. Thesis title: Reproduction and early life history processes of the tropical sponge Coscinoderma matthewsi
2006 - 2008
Bachelor of Science (Aquaculture). JCU, Townsville, Australia

Nov 2020 – current: Project leader: Optimising coral propagation; Co-lead: Drivers of survival – Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program

2016 – 2020: Ecology of benthic communities of North Western and Northern Australia

2015 – 2017: Effects of dredging on benthic filter-feeders. Leader Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) Dredging Science Node Theme 6: Filter Feeder research program,

2015: Microalgal biochemistry and composition

2011-2015: Population ecology of marine sponges

Partnerships & Collaborations

Dr Manuel Maldonado (Spanish National Research Council, CSIC) – Sponge population and larval ecology. Ongoing

A.Prof Guillermo Diaz-Pulido (Griffith University) - CCA-larval settlement processes and mechanisms. Ongoing

Dr David Abrego (Southern Cross University) – Symbiont-coral early life history interactions. Ongoing  


McLean D, Cure K, Abdul Wahab MA, Galaiduk R, Birt M, Vaughn B, Colquhoun J, Case M, Radford B, Stowar M, Harries S, Heyward A, Miller K (2021) A comparison of marine communities along a subsea pipeline with those in surrounding seabed areas. Continental Shelf Research. 219: 104394.

Ricardo GF, Harper CE, Negri AP, Luter HM, Abdul Wahab MA, Jones RJ (2021) Impacts of water quality on Acropora settlement: The relative importance of substrate quality and light. Science of the Total Environment.

Abdul Wahab MA, Wilson N, Prada D, Gomez O, Fromont J (2021) Molecular and morphological assessment of tropical sponges in the subfamily Phyllospongiinae, with the descriptions of two new species. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 193(1):319-335.

Chin Y-Y, Prince J, Kendrick G, Abdul Wahab MA (2020) Sponges in shallow tropical and temperate reefs are important habitats for marine invertebrate biodiversity. Marine Biology. 167:164.

Shaffer MR, Luter HM, Webster NS, Abdul Wahab MA, Bell JJ (2020) Evidence for strong genetic structuring and limited dispersal in the Great Barrier Reef sponge Carteriospongia foliascens. Coral Reefs 39(1): 39‒46.

Luter HM, Whalan S, Andreakis N, Astudillo-Garcia C, Taylor MW, Abdul Wahab MA, Botté ES, Negri A, Webster NS (2019) The effects of crude oil and dispersant on the larval sponge holobiont. mSystems.

Abdul Wahab MA, Radford B, Fromont J, Hosie AM, Miller K, Heyward A (2019) The diversity and distribution of mesophotic benthic invertebrates at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. Marine Biodiversity. 49(6): 2871–2886.

Botté ES, Nielsen S, Abdul Wahab MA, Webster J, Robbins S, Thomas T, Webster NS (2019) Enhanced genomic potential for energy-efficient metabolism in a sponge microbiome under ocean acidification. Nature Communications. 10, 4134.

Abdul Wahab MA, Maldonado M, Luter HM, Jones R, Ricardo G (2019) Effects of sediment resuspension on the larval stage of the model sponge Carteriospongia foliascens. Science of the Total Environment. 695: 133837.

Kandler NM, Abdul Wahab MA, Noonan SHC, Bell JJ, Davy SK, Webster NS, Luter HM (2018) In situ responses of the sponge microbiome to ocean acidification. FEMS Microbiology Ecology. 94(12): fiy205.

Galitz A, de Cook S, Ekins M, Hooper JNA, Naumann PT, de Voogd NJ, Abdul Wahab MA, Wörheide G, Erpenbeck D (2018) Identification of an aquaculture Poriferan pest with potential and its phylogenetic implications. PeerJ 6: e5586.

Abdul Wahab MA, Radford B, Cappo M, Colquhoun J, Stowar M, Depczynski M, Miller K, Heyward A (2018) Biodiversity and spatial patterns of benthic habitat and associated demersal fish communities at two tropical mesophotic reef ecosystems.  Coral Reefs. 37 (2): 327-343.

Strehlow BW, Pineda MC, Duckworth A, Kendrick GA, Renton M, Abdul Wahab MA, Webster NS, Clode PL (2017) Sediment tolerance mechanisms identified in sponges using advanced imaging techniques. PeerJ 5:e3904.

Abdul Wahab MA, Fromont J, Gomez O, Fisher R, Jones R (2017) Comparisons of benthic filter feeder communities before and after a large-scale capital dredging program. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 122: 76-193.  

Abdul Wahab MA, de Nys R, Holzman R, Schneider C, Whalan S (2017) Patterns of reproduction in two co-occurring Great Barrier Reef sponges. Marine and Freshwater Research. 68:1233-1244.

Fromont J, Abdul Wahab MA, Gomez O, Ekins M, Grol M, Hooper JNA (2016) Patterns of sponge biodiversity in the Pilbara, northwestern Australia. Diversity 8(4):21.

Luter HM, Widder S, Botté ES, Abdul Wahab MA, Whalan S, Moitinho-Silva L, Thomas T, Webster N (2015) Biogeographic variation in the microbiome of the ecologically important sponge, Carteriospongia foliascens. PeerJ 3: e1435.

Whalan S, Abdul Wahab MA, Sprungala S, Poole AJ, de Nys R (2015) Larval settlement: the role of surface topography for sessile coral reef invertebrates. PLoS ONE 10(2): e0117675.

Abdul Wahab MA, de Nys R, Abdo D, Webster N, Whalan S (2014) The influence of habitat on post-settlement processes, larval production and recruitment in a common coral reef sponge. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 461:162-172.

Abdul Wahab MA, de Nys R, Webster N, Whalan S (2014) Larval behaviours and their contribution to the distribution of the intertidal coral reef sponge Carteriospongia foliascens. PLoS ONE 9(5): e98181.

Abdul Wahab MA, de Nys R, Webster N, Whalan S (2014) Phenology of sexual reproduction in the common coral reef sponge, Carteriospongia foliascens. Coral Reefs 33(2):381-394.

Abdul Wahab MA, Fromont J, Whalan S, Webster N, Andreakis N (2014) Combining morphometrics with molecular taxonomy: how different are similar foliose keratose sponges from the Australian tropics? Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 73:23-39.

Abdul Wahab MA, de Nys R, Whalan S (2012) Closing the lifecycle for the sustainable aquaculture of the bath sponge Coscinoderma matthewsi. Aquaculture 324–325:281–285.

Abdul Wahab MA, de Nys R, Whalan S (2011) Larval behaviour and settlement cues of a brooding coral reef sponge. Coral Reefs 30:451–460.