The discovery has taken place in the canyons of Corsica and in various seamounts in the Alboran Sea
Sympagella delauzei is the name that has been given to this new species of glass sponge (Hexactinellid), which measures between 8 and 14 centimetres including the stalk, and which is found at depths of between 350 and 500 metres.
The study, published in the Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, also details the recent discovery of some specimens of this new species in nearby Atlantic areas, such as the Gorringe seamount in Portugal, although it is possible that its distribution includes other areas, such as North Africa and Macaronesia.
“These findings, along with the review of the species of glass sponge in the Mediterranean, show us what must be taken into account when it comes to protecting the sponge aggregations,” said Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research at Oceana and co-author of the study.
“Previous studies have shown that glass sponges are an important source of silicon, one of the basic nutrients for the oceans.”
It has always been believed that the Mediterranean was not an environment favourable to the presence of glass sponges, given their preference for colder waters, making them common in polar waters or in the ocean depths. In the Mediterranean, even in the deepest areas, water temperatures barely drop below 13 degrees Celsius. However, as demonstrated by this discovery, this sea still holds many secrets and surprises.
The project, led by the specialist in sponges Nicole Boury-Esnault, has been a collaboration between a group of scientists from the Mediterranean Institute of marine and terrestrial Biodiversity and Ecology in Marseilles (France), the University of Victoria in British Columbia (Canada) and Oceana.
As well as the announcement of the discovery of the new species, it has involved researchers reviewing the distribution in the Mediterranean of around a dozen other species, including some that reach a height of more than one metre.
The presence of a new species of glass sponge increases the value of those places where it has been found, such as Valinco Canyon in Corsica or the Avempace, Avenzoar, Catifas, Cabliers, Tofiño and Chella banks in the Alboran Sea.
The last of these seamounts, also known as “Seco de los Olivos” has been the subject of Oceana studies for seven years and has recently been declared a Site of Community Importance by the Spanish government under the INDEMARES project.