SAN DIEGO – Scientists using a remote-controlled robot submersible have discovered a new species of poisonous sponge in deep waters off San Diego.
Researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute were studying bacteria and other life around a methane seep at a depth of 3,340 feet when they came across the strange sponge just northwest of La Jolla, U-T San Diego reported Tuesday (http://bit.ly/1gz8580 ).
They described it as a twig-like carnivore that is able to survive on the dark, frigid ocean floor. It is similar to three other sponge species found along the U.S. West Coast and the Mexican state of Baja California.
"Killer sponges sound like creatures from a B-grade horror movie. In fact, they thrive in the lightless depths of the deep sea," the aquarium research center said in a statement.
The institute said scientists first discovered that some sponges are carnivorous 20 years ago. Since then, only seven carnivorous species have been found in all of the northeastern Pacific Ocean.
Kim Fulton-Bennett, a spokesperson for the aquarium research institute, told the newspaper the sponge was spotted by the remotely operated vehicle Doc Ricketts.
Scientists named the species Asbestopluma rickettsi, in honor of biologist Ed Ricketts, a main character in John Steinbeck's famous novel "Cannery Row."
The sponge was living near colonies of clams and tubeworms that use bacteria to obtain nutrition from methane seeping out of the seafloor.
Information from: U-T San Diego, http://www.utsandiego.com