In the deep waters making up the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean, a treasure trove can be found on the lumps of metallic ore that litter the bottom. The ore itself is valuable, but it’s the sponges that attach themselves to the ore nodules that scientists are interested in.
According to sciencenews.org, this new species of sponge was reported by researchers on September 24th. These newly discovered deep sea residents may help scientists monitor environmental impacts caused by deep-sea mining.
To make tracking the effects caused by the mining on deep-sea ecosystems easier, scientists are eager to setup a baseline of existing biodiversity. Especially in regions like the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (C-C-Z), which lies in the eastern Pacific Ocean, and is littered with the ore nodules.
This new sponge could very well be the key to that baseline. After samples of the ore nodules were retrieved from the C-C-Z in 2015, scientists noticed patches of snow-white sponges on the ore. It was believed to be a new species, and was later proven by DNA analyses. The proximity of the sponge to the ore may make it the perfect canary for this new coal mine.