Giant foraminifer, Spiculosiphon oceana, chosen as one of the 10 most important species discoveries of the year

Found off the coast of Spain, this species was submitted by the Centre for Advanced Studies of Blanes, the Centre for Oceanography of Marseille, and Oceana

Press Release Date: June 26, 2014

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

Every year, coinciding with the birthday of Linnaeus, the founder of modern taxonomy, the International Institute for Species Exploration at New York State University (IISE – SUNY) publishes a list of the 10 most interesting species discovered. The latest list, released yesterday, includes a giant foraminifer found on a seamount off Cabo de Palos (Murcia). The previously unknown Spiculosiphon oceana got its name from being discovered during one of Oceana’s expeditions.

“It is wonderful that the Spiculosiphon oceana has attracted international scientific attention,” says Ricardo Aguilar, research director of Oceana in Europe. “The discovery of this protozoan species confirms the valuable biodiversity of seamounts and shows just how limited knowledge of the seabed is.”


© CSIC. Spiculosiphon oceana


Last year’s list included a carnivorous sponge discovered in the deep sea in California. This year’s Spiculosiphon oceana mimics the behaviour of a carnivorous sponge, and actually collects them to form its structure. The discovery, made by Oceana and the Centre for Advanced Studies of Blanes (CEAB-CSIC), was first published in the scientific journal Zootaxa, in collaboration with the Centre for Oceanography of Marseille.

Foraminiferans are one-celled organisms that are a few millimetres long, similar to amoebas, and capable of forming a shell, within which they take refuge. What is striking about the discovered specimens of Spiculosiphon oceana, is that they reach 4 cm in length, which makes them giants in the world of single-celled creatures, and the largest discovered in the Mediterranean. This species has another unique feature worth noting – its appearance – which initially led scientists to believe that it was not a protozoan, but a multicellular animal from the sponge family.

Seco de Palos is a seamount located just 30 miles off the coast of Murcia, in Spain. Its summit is located about 95-110 meters deep, and its southern slope drops to over 1,200 meters. It is a place of interest for sharks, including basking sharks, sea turtles and cetaceans, boasting a strong concentration of Risso’s dolphins. Oceana first documented the seabed in 2007 using an ROV (robot submarine), and in 2012, found samples of Spiculosiphon oceana using a dredge.

Photo album of Spiculosiphon oceana

Press release (20.6.2013) A giant protozoon that imitates a carnivorous sponge has been discovered

Animated Short: The incredible case of the giant foraminifer who wanted to be a carnivorous sponge