Global Diversity of Sponges (Porifera)
MetadataShow full item record
With the completion of a single unified classification, the Systema Porifera (SP) and subsequent development of an online species database, the World Porifera Database (WPD), we are now equipped to provide a first comprehensive picture of the global biodiversity of the Porifera. An introductory overview of the four classes of the Porifera is followed by a description of the structure of our main source of data for this paper, the WPD. From this we extracted numbers of all 'known' sponges to date: the number of valid Recent sponges is established at 8,553, with the vast majority, 83%, belonging to the class Demospongiae. We also mapped for the first time the species richness of a comprehensive set of marine ecoregions of the world, data also extracted from the WPD. Perhaps not surprisingly, these distributions appear to show a strong bias towards collection and taxonomy efforts. Only when species richness is accumulated into large marine realms does a pattern emerge that is also recognized in many other marine animal groups: high numbers in tropical regions, lesser numbers in the colder parts of the world oceans. Preliminary similarity analysis of a matrix of species and marine ecoregions extracted from the WPD failed to yield a consistent hierarchical pattern of ecoregions into marine provinces. Global sponge diversity information is mostly generated in regional projects and resources: results obtained demonstrate that regional approaches to analytical biogeography are at present more likely to achieve insights into the biogeographic history of sponges than a global perspective, which appears currently too ambitious. We also review information on invasive sponges that might well have some influence on distribution patterns of the future.
© 2012 Van Soest et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Animal Systematics and Taxonomy