Taxonomy of the Israeli Mediterranean demosponges

Along the Levant coast demosponges are dominant in most benthic communities and at all depths. However, the knowledge about the Mediterranean sponge fauna of Israel is limited and not updated. In the frame of an ITI ongoing project we currently in the process of the identification of the most common species from the Dictyoceratida order. However, during this study we deposited in the National Natural History Collections at the Tel Aviv University additional 25 species of sponges from which 14 are unidentified. In the study proposed here we would like to identify these specimens (using morphological and molecular methods) in order to obtain a more comprehensive database of the Israeli sponge fauna. The need to acquire this knowledge is essential in order to have a supportive tool to be used for nature conservation purposes, in light of the current anthropogenic influences from desalination plants and the expected deployment of the gas pipe from the natural gas deposits discovered recently.