Project Description

Morphological Diagnoses of Sponges Collected at Shelf-edge MPAs from Eastern Florida to North Carolina

Díaz, M.C., S. Farrington, S.A. Pomponi, and J.K. Reed


This paper is a result of the taxonomic analyses of the sponges collected during the NOAA Ship Pisces expeditions in 2018 and 2019 with the University of North Carolina, Wilmington (UNCW) Mohawk ROV. This is part of a 9-year project conducted by NOAA National Marine Fisheries (NMF) in collaboration with the Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, and Technology (CIOERT) at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Atlantic University (HBOI-FAU) to document and monitor the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) of the southeastern U.S. continental shelf (eastern Florida to North Carolina, 50-165 m deep). The most prominent and conspicuous sponges were collected with the intention of evaluating the biodiversity of this important benthic group in these mesophotic habitats. Eleven sponge samples were collected, and taxonomic evaluation, studying the internal and external morphology, resulted in: 1) three well recognized species from the Tropical Western Atlantic (Leiodermatium lynceus, Neofibularia nolitangere, Clathria foliacea), 2) four species with sibling recognized species but with major morphological differences that might require the description of new species (Epipolasis cf. profunda, Cliona cf. tumula, Cliona aff. celata), and 3) three species that only could receive generic assignations (Penares sp.1, Clathria sp.1, and Aaptos sp.1). These results show that more than half of the species collected represent unknown species to science, or unknown variations of recognized species. Careful comparison with species types and observations of spicules under SEM would allow the necessary evidence to characterize and classify these new species or varieties. We suggest further characterization of these novel fauna considering their level of abundance and distribution in the MPAs studied. A synoptic description of each species studied, with live, deck and microscopy photographs is here presented.


Díaz MC, Farrington S, Pomponi SA, Reed JK. 2020. Morphological diagnoses of sponges collected at shelf-edge MPA’s from eastern Florida to North Carolina, between depths of 51 and 150 m, during CIOERT expeditions (2018-2019). Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University.