14 Taxonomy, Genetics and Biodiversity of Mediterranean Deep-Sea Corals and Cold-Water Corals

  • Alvaro AltunaEmail author
  • Angelo Poliseno
Part of the Coral Reefs of the World book series (CORW, volume 9)


Within the Mediterranean basin there are 82 species of deep-sea corals belonging to six orders of the phylum Cnidaria (Antipatharia, Scleractinia, Zoantharia, Alcyonacea, Pennatulacea and Anthoathecata), with the Alcyonacea (40) and the Scleractinia (25) being the most speciose. Thirteen species have a pronounced habitat-building ability at depths >200 m. Remarkable sites characterised by rich coral frameworks and gardens have been found in biodiversity surveys during the last years, revealing that some species are more abundant than previously thought. However, in terms of species richness, the Mediterranean deep-sea coral fauna is less diverse when compared with the nearby Atlantic areas. This discrepancy is probably in part due to unfavourable environmental conditions of the deep Mediterranean Sea, and to differences in sampling efforts between both areas. In this respect, considerable efforts have been recently done in terms of deep-sea fauna inventories. Nevertheless, updates made to the Mediterranean inventory of deep-sea corals since the beginning of the twenty-first century are few except for the octocorals. Therefore, ten species were included to the Mediterranean inventory, among which two have been newly described. The species concerned belong to the orders Scleractinia (1), Pennatulacea (1) and Alcyonacea (8).


Cnidaria Cold-water corals Mediterranean Sea Taxonomy Genetics Biodiversity Deep-sea 



We are indebted to Ricardo Aguilar for kindly sending pictures of OCEANA and the Life+Bahar Project (LIFE12 NAT/MT/000845) that contributed to enrich this chapter, and to Carlos Farias and the late Miguel Villena for sending material from the MEDITS 2015 cruise and the MNCN in Madrid, respectively. The cruise was co-funded by the Instituto Español de Oceanografía (IEO) and the EU through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). We would also like to thank Marzia Bo, Nadia Santodomingo and Covadonga Orejas for their insightful comments to this chapter.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.INSUBSan SebastiánSpain
  2. 2.Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Palaeontology & GeobiologyLudwig Maximilians Universität MünchenMunichGermany

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