Behind the scenes

Learning how to identify different species

sponge-taxonomyJune 7, 2013

MBARI researcher Lonny Lundsten is in British Columbia this week to learn techniques for the scientific description of sponges. Experts from the University of Victoria and the Khoyatan Marine Laboratory are teaching him how to prepare specimens for different types of scanning electron microscopes. Very high resolution images of microscopic skeletal material, or spicules, aid in the identification of new species because spicule types, shapes, and sizes are unique to each species. Pictured here is a carnivorous sponge of the genus Chondrocladia that was found at 2,500 meters depth in the Gulf of California. Click on the image to see one of the world’s foremost sponge taxonomists, Henry Reiswig, instructing Lonny (who is just off-camera) in proper scanning electron microscope specimen preparation. Watch this YouTube video to learn more about their recent description of a  carnivorous sponge that looks like a harp.