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3 new types of carnivorous sea sponges found in deep sea off Australian coast

Thursday, January 21st 2021, 1:40 pm - The sponges are only found in a specific area of the Great Australian Bight.

Researchers have discovered three new species of carnivorous sea sponges off the coast of Australia, in an area that was allocated for deep-sea oil exploration.

Merrick Ekins, one of the scientists involved in the study says the discovery is yet another example of how much we still have to learn about the deep sea, adding the sponges are only found in a specific region of the Great Australian Bight, at depths of 163 and over 3,000 metres.

Experts estimate there are between 5,000 and 10,000 species of sea sponges. They're simple creatures that do not have digestive, circulatory, or nervous systems, and they've existed for some 500 million years.

Instead of mouths, many species draw in water and nutrients through tiny pores. But the newly-discovered sponges can grab small crustaceans using small hooks, ScienceAlert says.

They were found at depths of 163 and over 3,000 metres.

Sea sponge 1 - Lycopodina hystrix. Ekins et al., Zootaxa, 2020 Lycopodina hystrix. Courtesy: Ekins et al., Zootaxa, 2020

"These new species are the first recorded carnivorous species from South Australia and increase the number of species recorded from around Australia to twenty-five," reads an excerpt from the paper.

Researchers say they resemble glass or toffee and a 'tree-like' appearance.

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