Two new sponge species with Nyoongar species names

Jessica Scholle's blog | Created 3 years ago

Two local scientists from the Western Australian Museum and Department of Fisheries recently published the descriptions of two new sponge species found in temperate coastal seas in southwest Western Australia. They gave these sponges Nyoongar names as a tribute to the region’s traditional owners.

The Aquatic Zoology department of the Western Australian Museum is regularly involved in research projects that survey the marine biodiversity occurring off the Western Australian coast. They sometimes discover species unknown to science that they study and analyse, compare to known species, and ultimately describe as new species. The recent publication describes two new sponge species: Haliclona durdong and Haliclona djeedara.

H. durdong and H. djeedara prefer temperate rocky reef habitats and occur in the shallow waters of south-west Western Australia from Jurien Bay to Bremer Bay. These two species appear to be endemic to the Australian west coast, meaning that they are found nowhere else in the world. To highlight this narrow geographic distribution and acknowledge the Nyoongar peoples as the traditional owners of south Western Australia, these two sponges were given the Nyoongar names “durdong” meaning green and “djeedara” meaning brown, names which describe the living colours of these species.

A new species of sponge, pictured growing on a rock overhang in a reef

Underwater photograph of Haliclona durdong; Hamelin Bay, Western Australia.
Image courtesy of D. Abdo 

A new species of sponge, pictured growing on a rock overhang in a reef

Underwater photograph of Haliclona durdong; Hamelin Bay, Western Australia.
Image courtesy of D. Abdo 

The brown sponges (H. djeedara) are about 12 centimetres high, 14 centimetres wide and have smooth and porous surfaces, and they are sticky to touch. Their texture is firm and springy which contrasts with H. durdong sponges which are easily damaged and pull apart with minimal force. H. durdong sponges have smooth surfaces with a velvety appearance. The sponges are about 10 centimetres high and 13 centimetres wide.

To determine if these species were new to science, the researchers went through a process of comparison with known species from nearby regions. They found that these two Western Australian sponges did not conform to any previously described species: the combinations of particular characters, such as their habitat and distribution, morphology, chemistry and reproduction, had not been reported before.

For further details

Find out more about the biology and morphology of these two new species in this paper:

J. Fromont and D. A. Abdo. (2014). New species of Haliclona (Demospongiae: Haplosclerida: Chalinidae) from Western Australia. Zootaxa 3835: 97-109.