Friday, 30 May 2014

Four new species of Carnivorous Sponges from the American West Coast.

Unlike most Sponges (Porifera), which feed by filter feeding water pumped through their bodies, Carnivorous Sponges (Cladorhizidae) feed by capturing Crustaceans and other small animals on hooked spicules on filaments, then digesting them externally.  The group are predominantly found in deep water, where carnivory is presumed to be a better feeding strategy than filter feeding, though a few shallow water forms are known. Spicules apparently from Carnivorous Sponges have been found from deposits as old as the Jurassic, implying that the group is at least this old, though it has been suggested that the group is paraphyletic, resulting from convergent evolution by different lineages within the Sponge group Poecilosclerida. Carnivorous Sponges have often been collected in the vicinity of chemosynthetic communities, and one species, Cladorhiza methanophila, has been demonstrated to host symbiotic methane oxidizing bacteria within its tissues.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 9 April 2014, Lonny Lundsten of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Henry Reiswig of the Department of Biology at the University of Victoria and the Natural History Section of the Royal British Columbia Museum, and William Austin of the Khoyatan Marine Laboratory, describe four new species of Carnivorous Sponges from the Pacific Coast of North America.

The first new species described is placed in the genus Asbestopluma, and given the specific name monticola, meaning ‘mountain dweller’, as it was discovered living on the Davidson Seamount off central California. Asbestopluma monticola is a branching Sponge with a ‘bottle-brush’ arrangement of filaments reaching 28 cm tall and 19 cm wide. As well as on the Davidson Seamount it was found living on a rocky outcrop within the Monteray Canyon, closr to the North Californian coast, as well as off the coast of Oregon, giving the species a known range of over 1000 km.

Colony of Asbestopluma monticola on the Davidson Seamount. Lundsten et al. (2014).

Asbestopluma monticola was found living at an average depth of 1236 m, in areas where oxygen concentration was low and the average temperature was 3.18˚C. Small Crustacean prey was observed adhered to the body of the Sponges, in various states of decomposition. The species occurred in mixed communities, alongside other Sponges, Corals, Crustaceans, Echinoderms and Fish. Small Pandalid Shrimps were observed climbing about on the branches of the Sponges.

(A) Filaments of Asbestopluma monticola. (B & C) Images of prey in various states of decomposition. Lundsten et al. (2014).

Asbestopluma monticola, spicules: (A) large styles 1, (B) large styles 2, (C) large styles 3, (D) microacanthotylostrongyle, (E) sigma, (F) palmate anisochela. Lundsten et al. (2014).

The second new species described is also placed in the genus Asbestopluma, and is given the specific name rickettsi, in honour of the marine biologist Edward F. Ricketts, who was immortalized as ‘Doc Ricketts’ in John Steinbeck’s Canary Row the first specimens of Asbestopluma rickettsi were collected by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute’s ROV Doc Ricketts.

Asbestopluma rickettsi is a branching Sponge with a ‘bottle-brush’ arrangement of filaments reaching 21.78 cm tall and 12.38 cm wide. The Sponge was found living in a community of chemosynthetic organisms in a low oxygen basin off the coast of California, north of La Jolla. The community also included Vesicomyid Clams, Tube Worms and Bacterial Mats. The average depth at the site was 1031 m and the average temperature 3.93˚C. Asbestopluma rickettsi was not observed capturing Crustacean prey, but rather was found to be feeding on methane-oxidizing Bacteria; it could not be determined whether these Bacteria were symbionts (living within the tissues of the Sponge) or were being ingested and consumed from the neighbouring Bacterial Mats.

Specimen of Asbestopluma rickettsi. Lundsten et al. (2014).

Asbestopluma rickettsi, spicules: (A) large styles 1, (B) large styles 2, (C) large styles 3, microacanthotylostrongyle (D), sigma (E), palmate anisochelae 1 (F), palmate anisochelae 2 (G). Lundsten et al. (2014).

The third new species is placed in the genus Cladorhiza, and given the specific name caillieti, in honour of Gregor Cailliet of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, a noted ichthyologist and deep sea biologist. It was discovered on the Endeavor Segment, of the Juan de Fuca Ridge hydrothermal vent field, off the coast of British Columbia, where it was found hanging from the underside of overhanging basalt ledges at an average depth of 2149 m in temperatures averaging 1.87˚C. Cladorhiza caillieti is an unbranching Sponge with a bottle-brush arrangement of filaments reaching up to 9.17 cm long and 3.6 mm wide. It was part of a community that included other Sponges, as well as Gorgonian Corals, Crinoids and Serpulid Worms. Numerous Crustacean prey, in various states of decomposition were found adhered to the filaments of the Sponges.

Cladorhiza caillieti: in situ image of numerous specimens attached to the underside of overhanging ledges(A), collection of specimens (B). Lundsten et al. (2014).

Collected specimens of Cladorhiza caillieti in the lab. Lundsten et al. (2014).

Partially digested Crustacean adhered to a filament of Cladorhiza caillieti. Lundsten et al. (2014).

Cladorhiza caillieti spicules: large styles 1 (A), 2 (B) and 3 (C), sigma 1 (D) and 2 (E). Lundsten et al. (2014).

Cladorhiza caillieti spicules: sigma 3 (A), sigmancistra (B), unguiferate anisochelae 1 (C) and 2 (D). Lundsten et al. (2014).

The final new species described is also placed in the genus Cladorhiza and given the specific name evae, in honour of Eve Lundsten, the wife of Lonny Lundsten. The species was discovered on a hydrothermal chimney at a depth of 2373 m, in the Gulf of California east of Cabo Pulmo where the Lundstens honeymooned. Cladorhiza evae is an unbranching Sponge with a bottle-brush arrangement of filaments that reaches 18.7 cm long and 3.1 mm wide. The area had low oxygen concentrations an average temperature of 2.02˚C, but was home to a diverse community including numerous Crabs, Worms and Fish. A variety of small prey were found adhered to the Sponges in various states of decomposition.

Cladorhiza evae group of individuals in situ on the hydrothermal chimney where they were discovered. Lundsten et al. (2014).

Cladorhiza evae, Collected specimens in the lab. Lundsten et al. (2014).

Prey in various states of decomposition on the filaments of Cladorhiza evae. Lundsten et al. (2014).

Cladorhiza evae spicules: large styles 1 (A), 2 (B), and 3 (C), sigma 1 (D) and 2 (E). Lundsten et al. (2014).

Cladorhiza evae spicules: sigmancistra (A), unguiferate anisochelae (B). Lundsten et al. (2014).

See also…


Sponges (Porifera) are considered to be the most primitive form of animals. They lack differentiated cells, and can reform if disassociated by (for example) shoving them through a sieve. On the other hand they cannot be considered colonies of single-celled organisms, as they have definite structures, bodies with more-or-less set shapes consisting of networks of pores and channels through which water is pumped; the individual cells feeding separately by filtering food from the water in these channels...



Sponges (Porifera) are considered to be the most primitive form of animals. They lack differentiated cells, and can reform if disassociated by (for example) shoving them through a sieve. On the other hand they cannot be considered colonies of single-celled organisms, as they have definite structures, bodies with more-or-less...



Sponges (Porifera) are considered to be the most primitive form of animals. They lack differentiated cells, and can reform if disassociated by (for example) shoving them through a sieve. On the other hand they cannot be considered colonies of single-celled organisms, as they have definite structures, bodies with more-or-less set shapes consisting of networks of pores and channels...



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