WHAT looked like a bean sprout in the sea here has been identified as a new species of sponge found nowhere else.
The sponge, named Tethycometes radicosa (which translates to sea comet with roots), is only the seventh sponge species described from Singapore.
It was dredged up from the sea bed about 10m from the shores of the Singapore Strait by researchers from the Tropical Marine Science Institute.
Mr Lim Swee Cheng, 31, Singapore's only sponge expert, identified the new sponge.
The last time a sponge was described from Singapore was more than 100 years ago, in 1884.
The new species is a unique, atypical sponge the size and shape of a bean sprout.
And just like the bean sprout, the delicate sponge stands erect with its 'roots' in sandy mud on the floor of the sea.
This is quite unlike typical sponges, which tend to be larger, with a wide range of growth forms either attached to rocks and dead corals, or buried in soft mud or sand.
The new species is also unique in having a partially detached sheath surrounding the stalk, something which has yet to be seen in other sponges.
Tethycometes radicosa is the first among similar species reported from shallow, coastal waters.
Others are known only from deeper waters elsewhere in the world.
by Shobana Kesava, Straits Times 9 Aug 08;
A new species of Tethycometes Sarà, 1994 (Porifera: Hadromerida: Tethyidae) from Singapore on the Raffles Museum News blog