New glass sponge discovered by Victoria researchers

The new species of sponge was collected on Bowie Seamount, a submarine volcano 180 kilometres west of Haida Gwaii

  • Mar. 3, 2015 6:00 p.m.

A new species of marine glass sponge was given a special name after being discovered by experts from the Royal B.C. Museum.

Dr. Henry Reiswig, a leading world expert in glass sponges, named the discovery after his now-deceased friend and colleague, Dustin Chivers, who saved his life diving in 1962.

The then 20-year-old Reiswig blacked out while diving off the Californian coast. Chivers carried him to the surface and got him to a hospital in time to save his life.

“Everything I’ve produced so far has been a result of this guy saving my life, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

The new species of sponge was collected on Bowie Seamount, a submarine volcano 180 kilometres west of Haida Gwaii, by a marine research group as part of a Fisheries and Oceans Canada project in summer of 2014.

Dr. Melissa Frey, curator of invertebrates at the Royal B.C. museum, has been studying glass sponges under the guidance of Reiswig. She soon realized something was off about the new sample.

“I gave the specimen to Henry, and after closely examining the sponge’s spicules he confirmed it new to science. It wasn’t anything I’d ever seen before,” said Frey.

 

Reiswig, who retired from McGill University’s biology department in 2001, has already made more than 100 different discoveries in his field.