MCS Seasearch divers discover new sponge species

Richard Harrington By: Richard Harrington
Date posted: 10 October 2011

Seasearch divers find previously unknown species of sponge Encrusting purple creature takes on shape of whatever it covers Diving off the east coast of the UK into the North Sea may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this summer a group of Seasearch divers quite literally chalked up some great finds in an area that gets little attention.

Seasearch divers find previously unknown species of sponge Encrusting purple creature takes on shape of whatever it covers Diving off the east coast of the UK into the North Sea may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this summer a group of Seasearch divers quite literally chalked up some great finds in an area that gets little attention. Led by Seasearch East’s Dawn Watson and Rob Spray,the volunteer divers with the MCS project , recorded roughly double the number of species previously identified in the area and discovered a brand new sponge so far unknown to scientists. Britain’s North Sea coast isn’t dived as often as others but in recent years has cemented its importance as home to the country’s 3 largest chalk reefs. North Norfolk’s chalk reef is the longest in Europe. It was amateur data showing unusual and unknown species as well as stunning rock formations that played a huge part in attracting a cast of top drawer scientists and surveyors. The survey recorded 352 wildlife species on the expedition, despite bad summer weather preventing diving North of Durham. 126 of those were seaweeds - many species were previously unrecorded in the region (according to the National Biodiversity Network Gateway) along with the new sponge discovery. The purple Hymedesmia sponge is yet to be named formally. This colourful creature is an encrusting sponge so adopts the shape of whatever it covers, typically flint cobbles. Sponges are simple animals but tough to tell apart, the find was confirmed by Dr Claire Goodwin of National Museums Northern Ireland, an expert in the field. Your Seas Your Voice - our campaign for the protection of our seas Seasearch website For all the latest news and events sign up to our enewsletter

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