Researchers have published the scientific description of a newly discovered sponge, Megaciella sanctuarium, which they named in honor of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary off the Central Coast of California.
Professor Tom Turner, a sponge expert from the University of California Santa Barbara, discovered Megaciella sanctuarium and 11 other previously-unknown species of sponges in the fall of 2021 during a research cruise in the Carmel Pinnacles State Marine Reserve, which is nestled within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Turner named all 12 new species, several of which are considered rare or have very restricted distributions, as they were not found in similar undersea areas outside of Carmel Bay.
Aside from Megaciella sanctuarium being named after the sanctuary, Turner named one sponge species after the indigenous Rumsen people of Monterey, one after the town of Carmel, and one after nearby Point Lobos.
“After diving in central California since 1988, I realize there is still so much to discover, and Dr. Turner is really exposing the incredible biodiversity of sponges found right here in our very own sanctuary.”Steve Lonhart, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary research ecologist and co-discoverer of Megaciella sanctuarium
Turner had explored the area with Steve Lonhart, a research ecologist for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and the two scientists have co-authored a recently published paper about their undersea discoveries.
“After diving in central California since 1988, I realize there is still so much to discover, and Dr. Turner is really exposing the incredible biodiversity of sponges found right here in our very own sanctuary,” Lonhart said in a statement.
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is a federal marine protected area off California’s Central Coast. Stretching from Marin County to Cambria, the sanctuary encompasses a shoreline length of 276 miles and 6,094 square miles of ocean, extending an average distance of 30 miles from shore, making it one of the largest national marine sanctuaries in the United States.
The full scientific paper, “The Sponges of the Carmel Pinnacles Marine Protected Area” by Turner and Lonhart, was published in the scientific journal Zootaxa.