New records of Chondrilla australiensis and Chondrilla grandistellata (Demospongiae: Chondrosida: Chondrillidae) from Havelock Island, South Andaman, India

Titus Immanuel 1, P. Krishnan 2, R. Raghuraman 3, Narayansamy Veerappan 4 & Sibnarayan Dam-Roy 5

1,2 Fisheries Science Division, Central Island Agricultural Research Institute, Garacharma, Port Blair 744105, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India

3 Zoological Survey of India, Andaman and Nicobar Regional Centre, Haddo, PortBlair 744102, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India

4 Centre for Advanced Studies in Marine Biology, Annamalai University, Parangipettai, Chadambaram, Tamil Nadu, India

5 Central Agricultural Research Insitute, Garacharma, Port Blair 744105, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India

1 (corresponding author), 2, 3, 4, 5




doi: | ZooBank:


Editor: Klaus Ruetzler, NMNHistory, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, USA. Date of publication: 26 November 2015 (online & print)


Manuscript details: Ms # o4147 | Received 09 September 2014 | Final received 30 October 2015 | Finally accepted 05 November 2015


Citation: Immanuel, T., P. Krishnan, R. Raghuraman, N. Veerappan & S. Dam-Roy (2015). New records of Chondrilla australiensis and Chondrilla grandistellata (Demospongiae: Chondrosida: Chondrillidae) from Havelock Island, South Andaman, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 7(14): 8167–8172;


Copyright: © Immanuel et al. 2015. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. JoTT allows unrestricted use of this article in any medium, reproduction and distribution by providing adequate credit to the authors and the source of publication.


Funding: Funded by Department of Biotechnology through the project titled

“Cataloguing and Conservation of Marine Sponges from Andaman through DNA barcoding”


Conflict of Interest: The authors declare no competing interests.


Acknowledgements: The authors acknowledge the valuable suggestions provided by Dr. Rob van Soest, Naturalis Biodiversity Center and Dr. Jane Fromont, Curator, Western Australian Museum. This work was financially supported by DBT (Department of Biotechnology) through the project entitled “Cataloguing and Conservation of Marine Sponges from Andaman through DNA Barcoding”.





Abstract: The genus Chondrilla is reported from the Andaman group of Islands off Havelock Island for the first time, with two species, C. grandistellata and C. australiensis in this study. This genus has previously been reported and represented by four species in Indian waters viz., Chondrilla mixta, C. sacciformis, C. kilakaria and C. australiensis. C. australiensis is light brown to reddish-brown in colour; encrusts primarily on live boulder corals; contains oxyasters measuring 14.8-(18.5)-22.2 µm and spherasters measuring 17.3-(26)-29.7 µm. C. grandistellata is tan or brown in colour with unevenly distributed white speckles; Contains large spherasters that measure 106.3-(143.3)-175.6 µm. In this study it is suggested that C. sacciformis specimens reported previously from India may be C. grandistellata; this probable conspecificity is also discussed.


Keywords: India, marine sponge, new record, Porifera.







The order Chondrosida Boury-Esnault & Lopès, 1985 contains only a single family Chondrillidae Gray, 1872 with four valid genera Chondrosia, Chondrilla, Thymosia and Thymosiopsis. Chondrilla Schmidt, 1862 is the most widely distributed genus with a total of 17 valid species (van Soest 2015). These are characterized by the presence of siliceous spicules of the aster type alone, abundant in the cortex and surrounding the canals (Boury-Esnault 2002).

The genus Chondrilla has been previously reported from India and is represented by four species: C. mixta Schulze, 1877 from the Gujarat coast, C. kilakaria Kumar, 1925 from the Gulf of Mannar, C. sacciformis Carter, 1879 from the Gulf of Mannar and C. australiensis Carter, 1873, from the eastern coast of India, the Gujarat coast and the Gulf of Mannar. Dendy (1916a) had described a species C. agglutinans, which was later determined to be a synonym of C. mixta Schulze 1877 by Burton (1924). This is the first record of the genus Chondrilla from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, with descriptions of C. australiensis and C. grandistellata.



Material and Methods

The sponge specimens were collected by diving using SCUBA and the field photographs were taken using a Canon G11 digital camera with an underwater casing. They were preserved in absolute alcohol within two hours of collection. Forty-eight hours later, the alcohol previously used was discarded and fresh alcohol was added for the final preservation. Sponge sections were made using a razor blade and then kept in xylene until they became translucent. A small piece of the sponge tissue was put in nitric acid to dissolve the organic material and isolate siliceous spicules. The sections and the spicules were observed under a compound light microscope and photographed using a Canon digital camera. Spicules were measured (minimum of 50 spicules of each type were measured) using an ocular micrometer, which was calibrated using a stage micrometer.



Study Area

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a long chain of islands, lying between 6045’–13041’N and 92012’– 93057’E, extending over an expanse of 800km (Ramakrishna et al. 2010). Information on poriferan diversity from these Islands is very scarce (Immanuel & Raghunathan 2010). A total of 486 sponge species have been identified across India (Thomas 1998) of which only 95 species are reported from the Islands (Wilson & Kitto 2012). Havelock Island, where the sponges were collected, is part of Ritchie’s Archipelago and the Rani Jhansi Marine National Park (Fig. 1). The Island is a popular tourist destination known for it’s pristine coral reefs and associated faunal diversity.





Spicule types

The basic shape of spicules (megascleres and microscleres) mentioned in this work are described in detail.

Oxea - Monoaxonic megasclere with pointed ends on either side

Oxyaster - Star-like microsclere that has pointed free rays radiating from a small centrum less than one-third the diameter of the whole spicule (Boury-Esnault & Rützler 1997).

Spheraster - Star-like microsclere with a prominent thick centrum and short rays; diameter of the centrum exceeds the length of the rays (Boury-Esnault & Rützler 1997).






Phylum Porifera Grant, 1836

Class Demospongiae Sollas, 1885

Order Chondrosida Boury-Esnault & Lopès, 1985

Family Chondrillidae Gray, 1872

Genus Chondrilla Schmidt, 1862


Chondrilla australiensis Carter, 1873

Material examined: ZSI/ANRC-7522, 18.xi.2011, one specimen, a thin encrusting sheet with small fragments of corals attached to the bottom measuring around 2cm in length (from a depth of 3–4 m), Havelock Island (12013.061’N–93015.207’E), coll. Titus Immanuel,

Description: The sponge was often seen encrusted on live massive boulder corals Porites spp. (Image 1A). The thickness of the sponge varies from 1-4 mm and has been noted to totally smother a coral colony more than 1 m long. The oscules, measuring 1-2 mm when open, are almost evenly distributed over the surface, around 2-3 cm apart. When the sponge is disturbed or brought out of water, contraction is pretty obvious as the oscules, which are usually slightly raised above the surface, contract and get suppressed. The sponge is fleshy and smooth to the touch when alive but turns very tough, with cartilaginous consistency, once preserved in ethanol. It was very firmly attached and hence it had to be collected along with the substrate.

Colour: Light brown to reddish brown in live condition, turning very pale in ethanol.

General organisation: The ectosome consists of a superficial thin layer, the cortex, which is darkly pigmented (Image 1C), followed by a less pigmented region. The thickness of the ectosomal layer was 110-180 µm. The choanosomal region was clearly differentiated from the ectosomal region in colour and density of the mesohyl (Image 1B). The internal canals were distinct and the spherasters and oxyasters were distributed with no apparent pattern. The concentration of asters was scarce in comparison to other species of Chondrilla.

Spicules: The spicules were made up of both spherasters and oxyasters. The smaller oxyasters (Image 1D & E) measure 14.8-(18.5)-22.2µm. The larger spherasters (Image 1F-H) measure 17.3-(26)-29.7 µm (Table 1).

Distribution: The sponge has been previously reported from Australia, Indonesia, Marshall Islands, South Indian Coast, Sri Lanka, and the Eastern coast of Africa and Oman.






Chondrilla grandistellata Thiele, 1900

Material examined: ZSI/ANRC-7531, 20.iii.2012, one specimen, a single piece measuring 2cm in length and 5mm in thickness, Havelock Island (12000.005’N & 92056.808’E), from a depth of 15m, coll. Titus Immanuel.

Description: The specimen collected (Image 2A) as well as the ones nearby were characterized by distinct thick lobular mounds measuring around 2–5 cm each. The sponge grew on the underside of a ledge located 15m deep which had little chance of getting any direct sunlight. Oscules were quite prominent and slightly raised above the surface of the sponge measuring about 2–3 mm. The sponge was tough, cartilaginous and very slightly compressible. Its surface was rough to touch, like fine sandpaper because of the asters that lined the cortex of the sponge ectosome.

Colour: It is mostly tan or brown, mottled with white. The colour persists in ethanol and is not lost in preservation.

General organisation: The ectosome was characterised by a prominent cortex of 250–590 µm thickness, packed with large spherasters (Image 2B & C). The choanosomal region is characterised by scattered spherasters (Image 2B).

Spicules: Spherasters (Image 2D) of C. grandistellata are the largest of the genus, their diameter ranging from 106.3-(143.3)-175.6 µm (Table 1).

Distribution: Previously reported from Indonesia (Thiele 1900) and the Marshall Islands (De-Laubenfels 1954); it is also suspected to be reported as C. sacciformis from India (Dendy 1916b) and East Africa (Pulitzer-Finali 1993).

Remarks: Chondrilla sacciformis Carter, 1879 bears a very close resemblance to C. grandistellata Thiele, 1900 (excluding the oxea that Carter (1879) had described, which has for long been considered not to be of the type specimen, i.e., of extraneous origin). Thiele (1900) has mentioned in the description that C. grandistellata had spherasters of diameter 150 µm and that no other Chondrilla spp. has such large spherasters. It was compared only with C. nucula Schmidt, 1862 and C. secunda Lendenfeld, 1885, whereas C. sacciformis was much closer in size (113µm, approximately). Dendy (1916a) had claimed to have in his possession Carter’s cabinet, which had dried fragments and a teased fragment in Balsam, both presumably labelled by Carter as C. sacciformis. These contained no oxeote forms and it was suggested that the oxeote forms that Carter (1879) had described could have been oxeas of the sponge Rhaphidhistia spectabilis Carter, 1879 over which C. sacciformis had been growing. This claim is not sufficiently justified, as the oxeas of C. sacciformis are much larger than the size of oxeas present in R. spectabilis as described by Carter (1879). A recent study by Fromont et al. (2008) confirms that the type specimen of C. sacciformis from the Natural History Museum, London (BMNH had oxeas. Fromont et al. (2008) also questioned the taxonomic position of C. sacciformis and suggested that it needs to be reassigned to the family Geodiidae as the type specimen seemed to possess sterrasters rather than spherasters. In view of all the above arguments and also in agreement with Fromont et al. (2008), it is probable that C. sacciformis Carter, 1879 is a member of the Family Geodiidae. Investigations of the specimens of C. sacciformis described by other works after Carter (1879) have to be made before any conclusions on the validity of the name C. sacciformis can be made.












In this study, two sponge species of the genus Chondrilla from Havelock Island, C. grandistellata and C. australiensis, have been examined in detail and described from this region for the first time. We also found that Fromont et al. (2008) have discussed in detail, the possibility of the type specimen of C. sacciformis (Carter, 1879) being shifted to the Family Geodiidae. C. sacciformis described from Indian waters by Dendy (1916a), is probably a junior synonym C. grandistellata Thiele, 1900, but since type specimens could not be examined, both species are considered valid for this study. The Genus Chondrilla is represented by five species in Indian waters, namely C. australiensis, C. grandistellata, C. kilakaria, C. mixta and C. sacciformis. There have been revisions of species and grouping of several species as one in previous works describing Chondrilla (Dendy 1916b; Burton 1924; De Laubenfels 1954; Fromont et al. 2008). This is probably due to the fact that most of the sponges have a very inconsistent organisation of spicules internally, with variable concentrations (Fromont et al. 2008). The most reliable characteristic for identification of sponges seems to be their spicule complement and spicule sizes. Cavalcanti et al. (2007) state that characters, such as spicule size and spicule concentration vary with season and cannot be a valid taxonomic character for studying the genus Chondrilla and that valid characters have to be assigned before confirmed descriptions of Chondrilla spp. can be made. In case of the two sponges described in this study, there is little confusion since the spicule complements are conspicuously different and also correlated with very different growth forms. But for some of the more closely related sponges, such as C. australiensis and C. mixta, which have very similar sizes of spicules, suggestion of con-specificity is inevitable (Burton 1924; Fromont et al. 2008). Usher et al. (2004) studied the phylogeny of the species of Chondrilla present in Australia and concluded that C. nucula could not be present in Australia, although it has been reported from there. Thus conclusive determination of conspecificity and heterospecificity can probably be achieved only by DNA barcoding or other molecular techniques (Duran & Rützler 2006; Rützler et al. 2007). While there is a certain degree of reluctance from traditional taxonomists in using a small part of the DNA as an identification factor, this molecular tool, when used along with traditional taxonomy could play a great role in solving some of the issues in the taxonomy of sponges with very few phenotypical variations.





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Keys to species of Chondrilla reported from the South Andaman Island

1. Only spherasters present, with diameters more than 100µm; in larger asters the rays are terminally microspined but never

branched .......................................................................................................................................... Chondrilla grandistellata

- Both spherasters and oxyasters present; oxyasters with microspined, irregularly bent rays which are frequently bi-rayed or

multi-rayed .......................................................................................................................................... Chondrilla australiensis