Rare sponge found in deep waters

Scientists from a marine conservation organisation are locked in a bid to protect a rare species of predatory sponge newly found in the deep waters of Spain and Italy. Asbestopluma hypogea was previously believed to be found only in water of between 15-26 metres deep, in three sites - the Mediterranean and in French and Croatian underwater caves. But the 1.5 cm measuring sponges were recently found in five new Spanish and Italian locations at depths as dramatic as 700 metres by scientists from Oceana. The species is of special interest to the scientists as it has developed feeding systems that are completely different from the rest of the known sponges. These carnivorous sponges feed on small crustaceans and take more than 10 days to digest them. Ricardo Aguilar, director of research at Oceana Europe and one of the research authors, said: "The fact that this species has only been identified in eight areas in the entire Mediterranean proves the need to promote marine research in deep waters." The discoveries ware reported in the journal Zootaxa.

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