Sitjà, C; Maldonado, M; Rueda, JL (2018). Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0025315418000589.
Mud volcanoes are singular seafloor structures classified as ‘sensitive habitats’. Here we report on the sponge fauna from a field of eight mud volcanoes located in the Spanish margin of the northern Gulf of Cadiz (North-eastern Atlantic), at depths ranging from 380 to 1146 m. Thirty-eight beam-trawl samplings were conducted (covering over 61,000 m2) from 2010 to 2012, in the frame of a EC-LIFE + INDEMARES grant. A total of 1659 specimens were retrieved, belonging to 82 species, from which 79 were in the Class Demospongiae and three in Hexactinellida. Two species were new to science (Jaspis sinuoxea sp. nov.; Myrmekioderma indemaresi sp. nov.) and three others recorded for the first time in the Atlantic Ocean (Geodia anceps, Coelosphaera cryosi and Petrosia raphida). Five additional species were ‘Atlantic oddities’, since this study provides their second record in the Atlantic Ocean (Lanuginella cf. pupa, Geodia cf. spherastrella, Cladocroce spathiformis, Cladocroce fibrosa and Haliclona pedunculata). Basic numerical analyses indicated a significant linear relationship between the species richness per m2 and the number of sponge individuals per m2, meaning that in most volcanoes many species occur in equivalent, moderate abundance. Likewise, sponge species richness increased with depth, while the abundance of hard substrata resulting from carbonate precipitation and the fishing activities around the volcanoes had no detectable effect on the sponge fauna. However, in the latter case, a negative trend – lacking statistical support – underlaid the analyses, suggesting that a more extensive sampling would be necessary to derive more definitive conclusions in this regard.