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Purple sponge sea creature found off Cromer is brand-new species

PUBLISHED: 04:00 10 October 2011 | UPDATED: 08:44 10 October 2011

NEW SPECIES: The previously unrecorded sponge Hymedesmia, found on a chalk reef off Sheringham. Picture: ROB SPRAY

NEW SPECIES: The previously unrecorded sponge Hymedesmia, found on a chalk reef off Sheringham. Picture: ROB SPRAY

It’s purple, it’s slimy, it lives off the Norfolk coast - and it’s got international marine scientists very excited.

No, not the creature from the black lagoon but the sponge Hymedesmia - now officially declared as a brand new species of sea creature.

The sponge was found off Sheringham on a 20-mile underwater chalk reef which is the longest in Europe and is now regarded as a fragile eco-system of international importance.

The discovery came during a Wildlife Trusts’ survey of the entire East Coast, from Essex to Northumberland, carried out during National Marine Week in August.

Altogether 352 species of marine wildlife were found including 126 seaweeds, several of them previously unrecorded.

The sponge, which feeds on small particles in the water, has been identified by expert Dr Claire Goodwin of the National Museums of Northern Ireland who said that because the reef is unusually made of chalk there could be other “new” sponge species living there.

A TV documentary telling how Hymedesmia was discovered will be shown tonight, Monday, on BBC1 at 7.30pm.

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