Structure and diversity of sessile zoobenthic assemblages seem to be driven not only by chemical-physical constraints and biological interactions but also by substrate lithology and its surface features. Nevertheless, broadly distributed crustose epilithic corallines could mask the role of substrate on animal settling. To evaluate the direct influence of different rocky substrates, occurrence and coverage of several sessile species, growing on the dark (i.e. coralline-free) face of sublittoral limestone and granite boulders were compared in the Tavolara MPA (Mediterranean Sea). The analysis of photographic samples demonstrated significant differences in terms of species composition and coverage, according to lithology. Moreover, limestone boulders were widely bare, while the cover per cent was almost total on granite. The leading cause of observed patterns could be the different level of dissolution of the two types of rocks, due to their different mineral composition and textural characteristics. Limestone has previously been shown to have higher dissolution compared with granite, and consequently, a more unstable surface. Our results suggest that, in dark habitats, the absence of the crustose coralline layer allows more rock dissolution and consequent lower stability of the limestone compared with granite, which, in turn, reduces the zoobenthos colonization.