Original Article

Helgoland Marine Research

, Volume 59, Issue 3, pp 237-251

First online:

Demosponge distribution in the eastern Mediterranean: a NW–SE gradient

  • Eleni VoultsiadouAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, School of Biology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


The purpose of this paper was to investigate patterns of demosponge distribution along gradients of environmental conditions in the biogeographical subzones of the eastern Mediterranean (Aegean and Levantine Sea). The Aegean Sea was divided into six major areas on the basis of its geomorphology and bathymetry. Two areas of the Levantine Sea were additionally considered. All available data on demosponge species numbers and abundance in each area, as well as their vertical and general geographical distribution were taken from the literature. Multivariate analysis revealed a NW–SE faunal gradient, showing an apparent dissimilarity among the North Aegean, the South Aegean and the Levantine Sea, which agrees with the differences in the geographical, physicochemical and biological characteristics of the three areas. The majority of demosponge species has been recorded in the North Aegean, while the South Aegean is closer, in terms of demosponge diversity, to the oligotrophic Levantine Sea. The number of studies in the Aegean and Levantine subareas was positively correlated with the number of species recorded within each Aegean subarea. Demosponge species with an Altanto-Mediterranean distribution prevailed in the Aegean and the Levantine. The reduced contribution of the endemic component, as compared to the western Mediterranean, is consistent with the general NW–SE decrease in the number of endemic species in the Mediterranean. Demosponge distribution at the order level showed also a NW–SE gradient, similar to that observed in the entire Atlantic–Mediterranean region, suggesting a warm water affinity. Sublittoral, circalittoral and bathyal zones were clearly distinguishable in the Aegean Sea on the basis of their sponge fauna. The total number of species was an exponential negative function of depth.


Demosponges Distribution Faunal affinities Mediterranean Sea Aegean Sea Levantine Sea