Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Thirteen new species of deepwater Sponges from the Caribbean Netherlands.


The shallow water reefs around Bonaire and Klein Curaçao in the Caribbean Netherlands are well studied and are considered a biodiversity hotspot, but the deeper reefs of the area are almost unknown, having been surveyed only once in 2000 by a group bioprospecting for medically interesting taxa. The Netherlands is committed to protecting and managing offshore ecosystems in the Caribbean Netherlands as part of the Exclusive Economic Zone management plan, but without a detailed understanding of the regions biodiversity this is impossible.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 29 October 2014, RobVan Soest of the Department of Marine Zoology at the Naturalis BiodiversityCenter in Leiden, Erik Meesters of the Institute for Marine Resources andEcosystem Studies in Den Helder and Leontine Becking of the Department ofEnvironmental Science, Policy and Management at the University of California,Berkeley describe thirteen new species of Sponges from deepwater reefs around Bonaire and Klein Curaçao in the Caribbean Netherlands, discovered in a series of dives by a submersible Curasub, operating from the RV Chapman as part of the Bonaire Deep Reef Expedition of 2013, carried out by the Institute for Marine Resources and Ecosystem Studies at the request of The Netherlands Ministryof Economic Affairs.

The first new species described is placed in the Homoscleromorph genus Plakinastrella and given the specific name stinapa in honour of the Stichting Nationale Parken, a non-governmental organisation managing and conserving the Bonaire National Marine Park. Plakinastrella stinapa is described from a single specimen collected from a limestone rockwall at a depth of 242 m off the coast of Bonaire. The specimen is a thick encrusting sponge, grey green in colour and covering an area of 10 x 15 cm. It had a skeleton composed of calthrops (four pointed elements), triods (three pointed elements) and diods (two pointed elements). There are twelve previously described species of Plakinastrella, of which three have been found in the Western Atlantic; from the Caribbean and off the coasts of the Carolinas and Brazil.

Plakinastrella stinapain situ on limestone rockwall west of Bonaire. Van Soest et al. (2014).

The second new species described is placed in the Demosponge genus Pachastrella and given the specific name pacoi, in honour of Paco Cárdenas, for his work on the taxonomy of tetractinellid sponges. Pachastrella pacoi is described from three specimens, one from limestone rockwall at a depth of 232 m off the coast of Cargill on Bonaire, one from sand at the base of a limestone rockwall at a depth of 159 m off the coast of Curoil Dock on Bonaire, and a third from a depth of 203 m, also off Curoil Dock. The Sponge is variable in morphology, but tends to be roughly cup-shaped, with an irregular, bumpy outer surface and a smooth inner surface. The largest specimen was 16 cm in diameter and 15 cm high. The skeleton comprises a variety of spicule morphologies in a confused mass.

Pachastrella pacoi at the base of a limestone rockwall at a depth of 159 m off the coast of Curoil Dock on Bonaire. Van Soest et al. (2014).

The third new species described is placed in the Demosponge genus Characella, and given the specific name poecillastroides, for its plate-like shape, which is reminiscent of that common in the related genus Poecillastra. Characella poecillastroides is described from a single specimen, collected from a Coral rock wall at a depth of 168 m off Curoil Dock on Bonaire. The specimen formed a thick folded plate 2-4 cm thick and covering an area of 20 x 40 cm. It was beige in colour, though its surface was greyish due to adhered sediment. It has a skeleton largely of long, needle shaped elements called oxeas, but with other elements also present. The species resembles the Barbadian Poecillastra sollasi, which has been described as intermediate between Poecillastra and Characella, but is assigned to Characella on the basis of its skeletal elements.

Characella poecillastroidesin situ off the southwest coast of Bonaire. Van Soest et al. (2014).

The fourth new species described is placed in the Demosponge genus Geodia, and given the specific name curacaoensis, meaning ‘from Curaçao’. The species is described from a single specimen, collected from a Coral rock wall at a depth of 156 m off the southwest coast of Klein Curaçao, though it is thought likely that another specimen collected at a depth of 144-153 m off the coast of Paynes Bay in Barbados in 1978 also belongs to this species. The Klein Curaçao specimen is a spherical Sponge, 5.5 cm in diameter, grey white in colour but red on its upper surface.

Geodia curacaoensis on deck. Van Soest et al. (2014).

The fifth new species described is placed in the Dermosponge genus Caminus and given the specific name carmabi, after the Caraibisch Marien Biologisch Instituut at Piscadera Baai on Curaçao. The species is described from two specimens, the first collected at a depth of between 120 m and 137 m from sand on a rock wall off the coast of Kralendijk Pier on Bonaire, and the second from a coral rock wall at a depth of 198 m off the coast of Curoil Dock, also on Bonaire. These are spherical pink sponges with an opening with a raised rim, the larger being 7 x 4 x 4 cm and the smaller 5 x 2 x 2 cm. It has a dense layer of sterrasters (speherical skeletal elements) I its cortical (skin) layer, with other elements underneath to support its shape. This is only the second species of Caminus reported from the Western Atlantic, although the first species, Caminus sphaeroconia, has been recorded from Brazil, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Barbados.

Caminus carmabi, from a coral rock wall at a depth of 198 m off the coast of Curoil Dockon Bonaire. Van Soest et al. (2014).

The sixth new species described is placed in the Demosponge genus Discodermia, and given the specific name adhaerens, meaning ‘to cling to’, a reference to its encrusting growth habit. The species is described from a single specimen collected from a Coral rock wall at a depth of 146 m off the coast of Kralendijk Pier on Bonaire. Discodermia adhaerens is a bright orange encrusting sponge, 2-3 mm in thickness but spreading over several tens of centimetres of rock. It has a skeleton of closely packed, overlapping discotriaenes (disk-shaped skeletal elements).

Discodermia adhaerens, specimen on a Coral rock wall at a depth of 146 m off the coast of Kralendijk Pier on Bonaire. Van Soest et al. (2014).

The seventh new specimen described is placed in the Demosponge genus Clathria, and subgenus Microciona and given the specific name acarnoides, due to the presence of acanthocladotylote-shaped acanthostyles (long skeletal elements with numerous spiky projections), which have only previously been recorded in members of the genus Acarnus. The species is described from a single specimen collected from a coral rock wall at a depth of 152 m off the coast of Curoil Dock on southwest Bonaire. Clathria (Microciona) acarnoides is an orange encrusting Sponge that was found covering the shell of a Mollusc.

Clathria (Microciona) acarnoides  found covering the shell of a Mollusc on a coral rock wall at a depth of 152 m off the coast of Curoil Dock on southwest Bonaire. Van Soest et al. (2014).

The eighth new species described is placed in the Demosponge Genus Antho and subgenus Acarnia and given the specific name pellita, meaning ‘forming a skin’ in reference to its encrusting habit. The species is described from a single specimen found encrusting a larger Sponge at a depth of 108 m off the coast of Kralendijk Pier on Bonaire. It is red in colour and soft, about 2 m thick and covered an area of 11 x 6 cm of the surface of the other Sponge.

Antho (Acarnia) pellita encrusting on the base of Neopetrosia eurystomata.Van Soest et al. (2014).

The ninth new species is placed in the Demosponge genus Parahigginsia and given the specific name strongylifera, in reference to its strongyle megascleres (elongate skeletal elements). The species is described from a single specimen collected from a limestone rockwall at a depth of 238 m off the coast of Bonaire. Parahigginsia strongylifera is a pale blue encrusting sponge forming a series of cone-shaped lobes, roughly 1-2 cm high. This is only the second species of Parahigginsia described, the first, Parahigginsia phakelloides being known from New Zealand and New Caladonia, and having a lamellate (layered) growth form, forming lobes up to 14 cm high.

Parahigginsia strongyliferaon a limestone rockwall at a depth of 238 m off the coast of Bonaire.Van Soest et al. (2014).

The tenth new species described is placed within the Dermosponge genus Calyx and given the specific name magnoculata, in reference to its large and conspicuous oscules. The species is described from a single specimen collected at a depth of 232 m off the southwest coast of Bonaire. Calyx magnoculata is an encrusting Sponge roughly 2 cm thick, the specimen covering roughly 11 x 16 cm of rockface and being beige in colour. It has a skeleton of tightly knit overlapping oxeas (curved needle-shaped elements). Only a single species of Calyx has previously been reported from the Western Atlantic, Calyx podatypa, from deep water off Puerto Rico and Barbados.

Calyx magnoculata shortly after collection. Van Soest et al. (2014).

The eleventh new specimen described is placed in the Dermosponge genus Neopetrosia and given the specific name dutchi in honour of Adriaan ‘Dutch’ Schriers, the owner of the Curasub, the vehicle used in the study. The species is described from a single specimen collected from sand at a depth of 217 m off the southwest coast of Bonaire. The specimen consists of a clump of white lobes 35 x 35 x 30 cm found sitting on the sand surface. It has a skeleton formed of a mesh of oxeas (curved needle-shaped elements). It is thought that specimens previously collected from Barbados should also be referred to this species.

View of submarine with collected specimen of Neopetrosia dutchi. Van Soest et al. (2014).

The twelfth new species described is also placed in the genus Neopetrosia, and given the specific name ovata, meaning ‘ovate’, in reference to the shape of the shape of the Sponge. Neopetrosia ovata is described from a single specimen collected from sand at a depth of 149 m of the southwest coast of Klein Curaçao. The specimen is a pinkish beige egg-shaped Sponge 10 cm high and 8 cm in diameter. It also has a skeleton formed of a mesh of oxeas, though less organised than that of Neopetrosia dutchi.

Neopetrosia ovata on sand at a depth of 149 m of the southwest coast of Klein Curaçao. Van Soest et al. (2014).

The thirteenth new species is also placed in the genus Neopetrosia and given the specific name eurystomata, meaning wide-mouth. Neopetrosia eurystomata is described from three specimens, two collected from sandy rubble at depths of 108 and 111 m off the coast of Kralendijk Pier on Bonaire, and one collected from sand at a depth of 88 m off Curoil Dock on Bonaire. It is vase-shaped with a wide, flaring opening, more so in the larger specimens. The largest is 30 cm high and 18 cm in width.

Neopetrosia eurystomata on sandy rubble at adepth of 108 m off the coast of Kralendijk Pier on Bonaire. Van Soest et al. (2014).

See also…

Sponges (Porifera) are generally considered to be the oldest extant animal group, with a fossil record that extends considerably into the Precambrian; phylogenomic analysis suggests they are the sister group to all other animals, which also suggests an early origin for the group.

Chalinid Dermosponges are among the hardest Sponges to classify taxonomically due to their simple anatomies and variable morphologies. They are encrusting Sponges with skeletons made up of...
Theonellid Sponges are predominantly deepwater Sponges found across the globe, with a rigid skeleton made up of interlocking silica spicules. They are noted for the production of an array of unusual chemicals, the majority of which are thought to be produced by...
 
 
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