The family Thorectidae includes 23 valid genera and 130 species, characterized by the presence of laminated fibres and diplodal choanocytye chambers. Currently the genus Thorecta comprises approximately 20 valid species, distributed mainly in the Indo-Pacific. We describe here a new species of Thorecta that is the only valid species of the genus described in the Atlantic Ocean so far. Samples were collected by trawling on board of the RV ‘Astro Garoupa’ in Potiguar Basin, on the northern coast of Rio Grande do Norte State, north-eastern Brazil. Thorecta atlantica sp. nov. is greyish-brown to dark brownish-grey and presents a distinctive globular or clavulate shape, with 1–2 large apical oscules that open to deep atria. It was found between 61 and 160 m depth. A literature survey suggests that many species referred to Thorecta should be relocated to different genera due to absence of diagnostic characters, and that the genus Thorecta should group only 11 species: T. carteri, T. marginalis, T. prima, T. lata, T. farlovi, T. meandrina, T. polygona, T. reticulata, T. tuberculata, T. vasiformis and T. atlantica sp. nov. The tortuous history of the genus is an example of the damage that poorly-described species can cause to classification. Detailed descriptions of fresh material, well illustrated by photographs and including as many characters as possible, are essential tools for the clarification of the systematics of Thorecta in the future.