Skip to main content Skip to main navigation menu Skip to site footer
Type: Article
Published: 2020-06-25
Page range: 125–151
Abstract views: 109
PDF downloaded: 6

Anchialine cave-dwelling sponge fauna (Porifera) from La Quebrada, Mexico, with the description of the first Mexican stygobiont sponges

1Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, Unidad Académica Ecología y Biodiversidad Acuática, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Cd. Universitaria, CDMX México. C.P.04510.
Department of Marine Biology, Texas A&M University at Galveston, Galveston, Texas, U.S.A.
Porifera Biodiversity Cenote Cozumel Demospongiae Homoscleromorpha Quintana Roo Stygobite


Porifera has been relatively well studied from underwater caves worldwide. However, sponges in Mexico are only known from two anchialine caves: La Quebrada and El Aerolito, both in Cozumel Island. An ecological study found that sponges have the second highest species richness and density in La Quebrada. The aim of the present work is to describe the sponge biodiversity inhabiting the dark zone of La Quebrada anchialine cave. A total of ten species were found and are described herein, six are new species to science vis. Calyx maya n. sp. a thinly branched sponge; Haliclona (Reniera) stygobia n. sp. globe-shaped with the thinnest diameter of oxeas in its group; Haliclona (Halichoclona) chankanaabiis n. sp. tubular habit with the smallest oxeas in its group; Neosiphonia microtriaeneae n. sp. characterized by very small dichotriaenes; Svenzea germanyanezi n. sp. a lone conical shape; and Diplastrella cozumella n. sp. for its tri to multilobed tylostyles. The other four species are previously known from open reefs or deep-sea: Discodermia adhaerens, Siphonidium ramosum, Cinachyrella kuekenthali, and Plakinastrella onkodes. This is the only inventory of Porifera in Mexican caves up to now, thus the species here described are the first stygobiont sponges from Mexico with an endemism rate of Porifera in this anchialine cave of 60%. Conservation programs are needed to preserve this unique and special ecosystem.



  1. Adams, R.E., Iliffe, T.M. & West, J.B. (2019) Identifying tree roots in the caves of Quintana Roo, Mexico as a step toward ecological insights and improved conservation. Plants People Planet, 2 (2), 133–139.

    Alcolado, P.M. (1984) Nuevas especies de esponjas encontradas en Cuba. Poeyana, 271, 1–22.

    Alcolado, P.M. & Gotera, G.G. (1986) Nuevas adiciones a la fauna de poriferos de Cuba. Poeyana, 331, 1–19.

    Álvarez, F. & Iliffe, T.M. (2008) Fauna anquihalina de Yucatán. In: Álvarez, F. & Rodríguez-Almaraz, G.A. (Eds.), Crustáceos de México: Estado actual de su conocimiento. Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, México, D.F., pp. 379–418.

    Alvarez, F., Iliffe, T.M., Benitez, S., Brankovits, D. & Villalobos, J.L. (2015) New records of anchialine fauna from the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Check List, 11, 1–10.

    Alvarez, B., van Soest, R.W.M. & Rützler, K. (1998) A revision of the species of Axinelidae (Porifera: Demospongiae) of the Central West Atlantic region. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, 598, 1–47.

    Alvarez, B., van Soest, R.W.M. & Rützler, K. (2002) Svenzea, a new genus of Dioctyonellidae (Porifera: Demospongiae) from tropical reef environments, with description of two new species. Contributions to Zoology, 71 (4), 171–176.

    Bibiloni, M.A., Uriz, M.J. & Gili, J.M. (1989) Sponge Communities in three submarine caves of the Balearic Islands (Western Mediterranean): Adaptations and Faunistic Composition. Marine Ecology, 10, 317–334.

    Bishop, R.E., Humphreys, W.F., Cukrov, N., Žic, V., Boxshall, G.A., Cukrov, M., Iliffe, T.M., Kršinić, F., Moore, W.S., Pohlman, J.W. & Sket, B. (2015) “Anchialine” redefined as a subterranean estuary in a crevicular or cavernous geological setting. Journal of Crustacean Biology, 35, 511–514.

    Calderón-Gutiérrez, F., Sánchez-Ortiz, C.A. & Huato-Soberanis, L. (2018) Ecological patterns in anchialine caves. PLOS ONE, 13, 1–19.

    Calderón-Gutiérrez, F., Solís-Marín, F.A., Gómez, P., Sánchez, C., Hernández-Alcántara, P., Álvarez-Noguera, F. & Yáñez-Mendoza, G. (2017) Mexican anchialine fauna—With emphasis in the high biodiversity cave El Aerolito. Regional Studies in Marine Science, 9, 43–55.

    Culver, D.C. & Pipan, T. (2009) The biology of caves and other subterranean habitats. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 276 pp.

    Desqueyroux-Faúndez, R. & Valentine, C. (2002) Family Phloeodictyidae Carter, 1882. In: Hooper, J.N.A. & van Soest, R.W.M. (Eds.), Systema Porifera. A guide to the classification of sponges. I. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York, Boston, Dordrecht, London and Moscow, pp. 893–905.

    Ereskovsky, A.V., Kovtun, O.A. & Pronin, K.K. (2016) Marine cave biota of the Tarkhankut Peninsula (Black Sea, Crimea), with emphasis on sponge taxonomic composition, spatial distribution and ecological particularities. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 96, 391–406.

    Ereskovsky, A.V., Lavrov, D.V. & Willenz, P. (2014) Five new species of Homoscleromorpha (Porifera) from the Caribbean Sea and re-description of Plakina jamaicensis. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 94, 285–307.

    George, W.C. & Wilson, H.V. (1919) Sponges of Beaufort (N.C.) Harbor and vicinity. Bulletin of the Bureau of Fisheries, 36, 129–179.

    Gerovasileiou, V., Dimitriadis, C., Arvanitidis, C. & Voultsiadou, E. (2017) Taxonomic and functional surrogates of sessile benthic diversity in Mediterranean marine caves. PLOS ONE, 12, e0183707.

    Gerovasileiou, V. & Voultsiadou, E. (2012) Marine caves of the Mediterranean Sea: A sponge biodiversity reservoir within a biodiversity hotspot. PLOS ONE, 7, e39873.

    Gómez, P. (2002) Esponjas marinas del Golfo de México y el Caribe. AGT Editor, S.A., México, D.F., 134 pp.

    Gonzalez, B.C., Martínez, A., Borda, E., Iliffe, T.M., Fontaneto, D. & Worsaae, K. (2017) Genetic spatial structure of an anchialine cave annelid indicates connectivity within—but not between—islands of the Great Bahama Bank. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 109, 259–270.

    Hajdu, E., Peixinho, S. & Fernández J.C.C. (2011) Esponjas marinhas da Bahia-Guia de campo e laboratório. Serie Livros Museu Nacional/UFRJ, Rio de Janeiro, 45, 1–276.

    Harmelin, J.G. & Vacelet, J. (1997) Clues to deep-sea biodiversity in a nearshore cave. Vie et Milieu, 47, 351–354.

    Hart Jr., C.W., Manning, R.B. & Iliffe, T.M. (1985) The fauna of Atlantic marine caves: evidence of dispersal by sea floor spreading while maintaining ties to deep waters. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 98, 288–292.

    Hartman, W.D. & Goreau, T.F. (1970) Jamaican coralline sponges: Their morphology, ecology, and fossil relatives. Symposia of the Zoological Society, London, 25, 205–243.

    Hechtel, G.J. (1965) A sistematic study of the Demospongiae of Port Royal, Jamaica. Bulletin of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, 20, 1–103.

    Iliffe, T.M. (2018) Collecting and processing crustaceans from anchialine and marine caves. Journal of Crustacean Biology, 38, 374–379.

    Iliffe, T.M., Kvitek, R., Blasco, S., Blasco, K. & Covill, R. (2011) Search for Bermuda’s deep water caves. Hydrobiologia, 677, 157–168.

    Jackson, C.P.J., de Weerdt, W.H. & Webber, M.K. (2006) Haliclona (Reniera) portroyalensis n. sp., a new chalinid sponge (Porifera: Demospongiae, Haplosclerida) from the southeast coast of Jamaica. Zootaxa, 1319 (1), 59–68.

    Kelly, M. (2007) The Marine Fauna of New Zealand: Porifera: Lithistid Demospongiae (Rock Sponges). NIWA Biodiversity Memoir, 121, 1–100.

    Kobluk, D.R. & van Soest, R.W.M. (1989) Cavity-dwelling sponges in a southern Caribbean coral reef and their paleontological implications. Bulletin of Marine Science, 44, 1207–1235.

    Koch, C., Martínez, O.F., Giese, S., Schirmer, M., Raabe, D., Geiß, S. & Münch, U. (2017) Pharmaceuticals in the groundwater of the informal settlement “Las Fincas” on Cozumel Island, Mexico. WIT Transactions on the Built Environment, 170, 193–202.

    Lehnert, H. & Soest, R.W.M. van (1996) Noth Jamaican Deep Fore-reef Sponges. Beaufortia, 46, 53–81.

    Lehnert, H. & Soest R.W.M. van (1998) Shallow water sponges of Jamaica. Beaufortia, 48 (5), 71–103.

    Maas-Vargas, M. (2004) Inventario de las esponjas marinas (Porifera: Demospongiae) de la colección de referencia de bentos costeros de ECOSUR. Universidad y Ciencia, 20 (39), 23–28.

    Macyntire, I.G., Rützler, K., Norris, J.N. & Fauchald, K. (1982) A submarine cave near Columbus Cay, a bizarre cryptic habitat. In: Rützler, K. & Macyntire, I.G. (Eds.), The Atlantic barrier reef ecosystem at Carrie Bow Cay, Belize I: Structure and communities. Smithsonian Contributions to the Marine Sciences, 12, pp. 127–141.

    Manconi, R., Cadeddu, B., Ledda, F. & Pronzato, R. (2013) An overview of the Mediterranean cave-dwelling horny sponges (Porifera, Demospongiae). ZooKeys, 281, 1–68.

    Manconi, R., Ledda, F.D., Serusi, A., Corso, G. & Stocchino, G.A. (2009) Sponges of marine caves: Notes on the status of the Mediterranean palaeoendemic Petrobiona massiliana (Porifera: Calcarea: Lithonida) with new records from Sardinia. Italian Journal of Zoology, 76, 306–315.

    Manconi, R., Melis, P., Cadeddu, B., Manca, B. & Ledda, F.D. (2012) How many sponges live in anchialine caves? Natura Croatica, 21 (1), 77–79.

    Manconi, R. & Serusi, A. (2008) Rare sponges from marine caves: discovery of Neophrissospongia nana nov. sp. (Demospongiae, Corallistidae) from Sardinia with an annotated checklist of Mediterranean lithistids. ZooKeys, 4, 71–87.

    Melis, P., Riesgo, A., Taboada, S. & Manconi, R. (2016) Coping with brackish water: A new species of cave-dwelling Protosuberites (Porifera: Demospongiae: Suberitidae) from the Western Mediterranean and a first contribution to the phylogenetic relationships within the genus. Zootaxa, 4208 (4), 349–364.

    Metcalfe, C.D., Beddows, P.A., Bouchot, G.G., Metcalfe, T.L., Li, H. & Van Lavieren, H. (2011) Contaminants in the coastal karst aquifer system along the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Environmental Pollution, 159, 991–997.

    Moraes, F.C. (2011) Esponjas das Ilhas Oceânicas Brasileiras. Serie Libros 44. Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro, 252 pp.

    Morrow, C. & Cárdenas, P. (2015) Proposal for a revised classification of the Demospongiae (Porifera). Frontiers in Zoology, 12 (7), 1–27.

    Mothes, B. & da Silva, C.M.M. (1999) Esponjas com desmas do Atlântico Sul-Brasileiro (Porifera, Demospongiae) com duas novas spécies. Iheringia, Zoologia, 86, 125–136.

    Pisera, A. & Lévi, C. (2002) Family Phymatellidae Schrammen, 1910. In: Hooper, J.N.A. & Soest, R.W.M. van (Eds.) Systema Porifera: A guide to the classification of sponges. 1. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, Nueva York, Boston, Dordrecht, London, Moscow, pp. 366–373.

    Pisera, A. & Vacelet, J. (2011) Lithistid sponges from submarine caves in the Mediterranean: taxonomy and affinities. Scientia Marina, 75, 17–40.

    Pomponi, S.A., Kelly, M., Reed, J.K. & Wright, A.E. (2001) Diversity and bathymetric distribution of lithistid sponges in the tropical western Atlantic region. Bulletin of the Biological Society of Washington, 10, 344–353.

    Pomponi, S.A., Díaz, M.C., Soest, R.W.M. van, Bell, L.J., Busutil, L., Gochfeld, D.J. & Slattery, M. (2019) Sponges. In: Loya, Y., Puglise, K. & Bridge, T. (Eds.), Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems. Coral Reefs of the World. Vol. 12. Springer Nature, Basel, pp. 563–588.

    Pouliquen, L. (1972) Les spongiaires des grottes sous-marines de la Région de Marseille: Écologie et sistématique. Tethys, 3 (4), 717–758.

    Pulitzer-Finali, G. (1986) A collection of West Indian Demospongiae (Porifera). In appendix, a list of the Demospongiae hitherto recorded from the West Indies. Annali del Museo civico di storia naturale Giacomo Doria, 86, 65–216.

    Rützler, K. (1995) Low-tide exposure of sponges in a Caribbean mangrove community. Marine Ecology, 16, 165–179.

    Rützler, K. (2012) The role of sponges in the Mesoamerican Barrier-Reef ecosystem, Belize. In: Becerro, M.A., Uriz, M.M. & Turon, X. (Eds.), Advances in Sponge Science: Phylogeny, Systematics, Ecology. Academic Press, London, pp. 211–271.

    Rützler, K., Duran, S. & Piantoni, C. (2007) Adaptation of reef and mangrove sponges to stress: Evidence for ecological speciation exemplified by Chondrilla caribensis new species (Demospongiae, Chondrosida). Marine Ecology, 28, 95–111.

    Rützler, K., Piantoni, C., Soest, R.W.M. van & Díaz, M.C. (2014) Diversity of sponges (Porifera) from cryptic habitats on the Belize barrier reef near Carrie Bow Cay. Zootaxa, 3805 (1), 1‒129.

    Rützler, K. & Smith, K.P. (1992) Guide to western Atlantic species of Cinachyrella (Porifera: Tetillidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 105 (1), 148‒164.

    Sarà, M. & Bavestrello, G. (2009) Tethya omanensis, a remarkable new species from an Oman cave (Porifera, Demospongiae). Bolletino di zoologia, 62, 23–27.

    Sket, B. (1996) The ecology of anchialine caves. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 11, 221–225.

    Sket, B. (2008) Can we agree on an ecological classification of subterranean animals? Journal of Natural History, 42, 1549–1563.

    Slattery, M., Gochfeld, D.J., Easson, C.G. & O’Donahue, L.R.K. (2013) Facilitation of coral reef biodiversity and health by cave sponge communities. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 476, 71–86.

    Solís-Marín, F.A. & Laguarda-Figueras, A. (2010) A new species of starfish (Echinodermata: Asteroidea) from an anchialine cave in the Mexican Caribbean. Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad, 81, 663–668.

    Topsent, E. (1904) Spongiaires des Aςores. Résultats des campagnes scientifiques accomplies par le Prince Albert I, Monaco, 25, 1–279.

    Torres-Talamante, O., Aguilar-Rámirez, A. & Gonzalo-Merediz, A. (2012) Steps for specific vulnerability maps, management & conservation in Yucatan Peninsula anchialine systems. Natura Croatica, 21, 95–99.

    Trajano, E. & de Carvalho, M.R. (2017) Towards a biologically meaningful classification of subterranean organisms: A critical analysis of the schiner-Racovitza system from a historical perspective, difficulties of its application and implications for conservation. Subterranean Biology, 22, 1–26.

    Uliczka, E. (1929) Die tetraxonen Schwämme Westindiens (auf Grund der Ergebnisse der reise Kükenthal-Hartmeyer). In: Kükenthal, W. & Hartmeyer, R. (Eds.), Ergebnisse einer zoologischen Forschungsreise nach Westindien. zoologische Jahrbücher, Abteilung für Systematik. Geographie und Biologie der Thiere, Supplement 16, 35–62.

    Vacelet, J. (1996) Deep-sea sponges in a Mediterranean cave. Biosystematics and Ecology Series, 11, 299–312.

    van Hengstum, P.J., Cresswell, J.N., Milne, G.A. & Iliffe, T.M. (2019) Development of anchialine cave habitats and karst subterranean estuaries since the last ice age. Scientific Reports, 9, 11907.

    van Soest, R.W.M. (1980) Marine sponges from Curaςao and other Caribbean localities. Part II. Haplosclerida. Studies on the Fauna of Curaςao and other Caribbean Islands, 62 (191), 1–173.

    van Soest, R.W.M. (2017) Sponges of the Guyana shelf. Zootaxa, 4217 (1), 1–225.

    van Soest, R.W.M., Boury-Esnault, N., Hooper, J.N.A., Rützler, K., de Voogd, N.J., Alvarez de Glasby, B., Hajdu, E., Pisera, A.B., Janussen, D., Tabachnick, K.R., Klautau, M., Picton, B., Kelly, M., Vacelet, J., Dohrmann, M., Díaz, M.C., Cárdenas, P. & Carballo, J.L. (2018) World Porifera Database. Available from: (accessed 20 February 2020)

    van Soest, R.W.M., Meesters, E.H.W.G. & Becking, L.E. (2014) Deep-water sponges (Porifera) from Bonaire and Klein Curaçao, Southern Caribbean. Zootaxa, 3878 (5), 401–443.

    van Soest, R.W.M. & Sass, D. (1981) Marine sponges from an island cave on San Salvador Island, Bahamas. Bijdragen Tot de Dierkunde, 51, 332–344.

    van Soest, R.W.M. & Stentoft, N. (1988) Barbados deep-water sponges. Studies on the Fauna of Curaçao and other Caribbean Islands, 70 (215), 1–175.

    Vicente, J., Zea, S., Powell, R.J., Pawlik, J.R. & Hill, R.T. (2014) New epizooic symbioses between sponges of the genera Plakortis and Xestospongia in cryptic habitats of the Caribbean. Marine Biology, 161, 2803–2818.

    Weerdt, W.H. de (1986) A systematic revision of the North-Eastern Atlantic shallow-water Haplosclerida (Porifera, Demospongiae), Part II: Chalinidae. Beaufortia, 36 (6), 81–165.

    Weerdt, W.H. de (1989) Phylogeny and vicariance biogeography of North Atlantic Chalinidae (Haplosclerida, Demospongiae). Beaufortia, 39 (3), 55–88.

    Weerdt, W.H. de (2000) A monograph of the shallow-water Chalinidae (Porifera, Haplosclerida) of the Caribbean. Beaufortia, 50 (1), 1–67.

    Weerdt, W.H. de, Rützler, K. & Smith, K.P. (1991) The Chalinidae (Porifera) of Twin Cays, Belize, and adjacent waters. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 104 (1), 189–205.

    Yañez-Mendoza, G., Zarza-González, E. & Mejía-Ortíz, L.M. (2007) Sistemas anquihalinos. In: Mejía-Ortíz, L.M. (Ed.), Biodiversidad acuática de la Isla de Cozumel. Universidad de Quintana Roo-CONABIO, Quintana Roo, pp. 49–70.

    Zea, S. (1987) Esponjas del Caribe Colombiano. Editorial Catálogo Científico, Bogotá, 283 pp.