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Phylum Porifera
Class Demospongiae
Order Choristida
Family Tetillidae

Cinachyra subterranea van Soest & Sass, 1981

Taxonomic Characterization:
Hispid, globular sponge. Porocalyces 8 in number, distributed irregularly over entire sponge. Porocalyces surrounded by a paliisade of megascleres protruding 5 mm or more beyond the ectosome. Attachment to the rock, not by a root of spicules, but by a smooth, flat, disk-like part (van Soest & Sass, 1981).

Disposition of Specimens: Zoological Museum Amsterdam catalog number POR 4581.

Ecological Classification: Stygobitic

Size: 2 cm in diameter

Number of Species in Genus: At least seven

Genus Range: Very widely distributed, ranging from Antarctica to the Indo Pacific and the Caribbean.

  • Bahama Islands:
    • San Salvador Island: C. subterranea van Soest & Sass, 1981
      • Lighthouse Cave
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Cinachyra subterranea: species range

Species Range: Known only from Lighthouse Cave, San Salvador Island, Bahamas

Closest Related Species: This species differs clearly from all other West Indian Cinachyra species, in the absence of pseudoscules, in the many tylote modifications of the oxeote megascleres, and in the presence of numerous promonaenes. In other details, it is close to C. alloclada Uliczka, 1929 (van Soest & Sass, 1981).

Habitat: Anchialine limestone caves

Ecology: Found in fully marine salinity waters on vertical walls and the floor of the cave; some individuals are exposed at low tide. Found with two other marine sponges, Pellina pencilliformis van Soest & Sass, 1981 and Prosuberites geracei van Soest & Sass, 1981. In addition, Lighthouse Cave is inhabited by species of cirolanid isopods, phoronid worms, ostracods, gastropods, amphipods and more. Recently, Rutzler (1987) considered C. subterranea as synonymous of a known non-troglobitic taxon.

Evolutionary Origins: It is believed that this species of sponge originated from a marooned population of a marine shallow-water species at least 23,000 years ago. Such a rate of speciation seems quite high, when compared to the evidence of slow evolution in tropical sponges. On the other hand, the cave situation very likely speeded up the development of morphological changes due to inbreeding (van Soest & Sass, 1981).

Conservation Status: Restricted to a single anchialine cave


  • van Soest, R.W.M. and D.B. Sass. 1981. Marine sponges from an island cave on San Salvador Island, Bahamas. Bijdragen tot de Dierkunde, 51(2):332-344, 4 figures, 2 tables.


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