Sponge Alert

Loch Lomond, NNR

After yesterday’s doom and gloom blog post and watching Blue Planet on Sunday night I thought this was the right time to share some fantastic news, put a smile on many people’s faces and even crack a laugh thinking …….”oh no not another sponge!!”

If Blue Planet hadn’t got my attention before it surely got my attention on Sunday night when they described how a shrimp spends its life imprisoned in a crystal sponge! Even though this was about a marine sponge I thought it was about time I wrote a blog post about the fresh water sponge at Loch Lomond and about another record I identified elsewhere.

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If you weren’t aware, freshwater sponges are classed as an invertebrate animals that can grow in lochs, canals, rivers and streams where they are submerged, attached to rocks and plants. Made from needle-like spicules and pores which allow filtration of water, they hold ecological importance and increase freshwater biodiversity. There are only 6 species within the UK and only 4 recorded in Scotland so my eye is always on the look out for them when in water.

Spongilla lacustris was first identified at Loch Lomond NNR on 15th August 2016.  Since then I have returned on many occasions to see its growth. From it being a green blob it gradually grew into a large colony which amazed me.

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When I was on a training course I found myself wading in the River Balvaig.  When I should have been searching for something else a green blob appeared in the water before me and my mind went into overdrive. Since very little information is recorded about freshwater sponges, I would love to see this changed. So with my connections, a sample was taken and sent away to confirm. Whilst I was hoping it to be another freshwater sponge species Ephydatia fluviatilis which is known to be found in fast flowing rivers and of a new location that could be added to the distribution map it was however of  Spongilla lacustris. Although this species is not often found in rivers, it was a new location that could be recorded for the freshwater sponge being present.

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I will off course be returning at a later date as the chances of Ephydatia fluviatilis being present is relatively high.

You don’t need to go down into the deep blue sea, missing a heart beat when you see a puddle appear in the submersible vehicle (as shown on The Blue Planet) for exciting underwater finds like sponges, you can find them in lochs and rivers as well. The only problem you might face would be a hole in your dry suit or waders!

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