In the frigid waters of the eastern Canadian Arctic and northern Atlantic a “large,” veiny sea creature thrived. That is until it was caught in a huge net — and scientists realized it was a new species.
Researchers were exploring specimens from regular bottom trawl surveys when they discovered the new species of sea sponges, according to a study published Sept. 1 in the Canadian Journal of Zoology.
As they continued looking into the creatures, known as Mycale lorea, scientists said they determined the sponges live over a large area in the western North Atlantic. Researchers collected specimens from the eastern Canadian Arctic, specifically along the Newfoundland and Labrador Shelf and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Mycale lorea is described as a “large vase-shaped sponge,” researchers said. It is a member of a large group of sponges found worldwide known as Mycale.
Like other sponges, the creatures filter water through their bodies, collecting small particles to feed on, Curtis Dinn, a researcher who worked on the study, told McClatchy News.
Mycale lorea’s skeleton is composed of large, bone-like protrusions known as spicules, according to the study. The creature’s skeleton extends from “a thick stalk,” creating a lightly colored “irregular lattice” filled with softer tissue.
Researchers said the species is named after the Latin term lorea, meaning laurel branch, crown or wreath because the creature’s veining looks similar to the roots and branches of a bay laurel tree.
Because experts have collected specimen using trawls, many of the Mycale lorea they have examined have come in large fragments, the study said. However, an underwater video from the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada showed a Mycale lorea in its natural habitat, nestled in the muddy ocean floor, attached to a rock.
Scientists said members of the Mycale genus are “opportunistic in their growth form, and their overall shape likely depends on the surrounding habitat.”
Mycale lorea’s “large, stalked funnel shape” sets it apart from most other species of Mycale, except for Mycale loveni, a similar species. Experts said they can discern the two species by the different sizes and shapes of their large skeletal spicules known as megascleres.