Killer sponges discovered off our coast - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Killer sponges discovered off our coast

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - There is a new kind of predator that has been spotted off the San Diego coast. A species of sponge is living in the deep waters near La Jolla.

"When I saw these, I knew we had something that was pretty rare and unique," said Lonny Lundsten.

Never before seen by human eyes -- until now -- four new types of killer sponges have been discovered in the deep sea off the Pacific Coast. 

"We were really excited - when we're out at sea and we see these beautiful animals that we're certain nobody's ever seen alive before," said Lundsten.

Including one -- in our own backyard. 

"It was found just northwest of La Jolla in the La Jolla canyon," he said.

Lonny Lundsten, a senior research technician at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, says the discoveries were made possible by using remotely operated vehicles, equipped with high-definition video cameras.

Images of the new species off our coast were sent back from deep, dark waters. 

"They were right at about 1,800 feet below the ocean's surface," he said.

And that's what makes the newly discovered killer sponges so special. Unlike typical sponges, which create a current to filter small microorganisms from the water for food.

Many of the killer sponges slowly digest their prey, after first trapping it in microscopic hooks.

"These hooks allow them to ensnare small crustacean, crustaceans drifting along in the currents," Lundsten said.

Giving researchers new insight into how these sponges have adapted to living in a dark, food poor environment.

"Every time we go out there it's almost like we're doing exploration of the frontier and that's exciting," Lundsten said.

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