Up UK Diving » Seasearch Sponge ID Course - Plymouth May 08

Some people have asked when the sponge course was... I usually reply that it's between dessert and coffee... I'm very sorry I'm still waiting to get a laugh out of that 'joke' :-( We went all the way down to Plymouth for this Seasearch Specialist Course as not only was it arranged by Sally Sharrock - human dynamo - she had enticed Bernard Picton - top sponge and slug guru to lecture with Clare Goodwin . It's always a pleasure to join Sally's well organised trips, the conditions in Devon are usually better than those up in East Anglia and you really can't find a more authorative source than Bernard. It was a very enlightening and great fun, although we discovered how tough sponges are to ID and how there may be many more species than were expected as they can be very, very similar. The microscope sessions at the MBA revealed the amazing, beautiful selection of shapes which sponges create to form skeletons but give little hint at from the outside.

We arrived early enough the evening before the course to join Sally for a shore dive in Firestone Bay. We didn't find it first time but were talked in and enjoyed a gentle warm up which let us test our repaired macro port - which is why all the pictures are taken with our wide angle lens... We saw some really interesting stuff, aside from my unhealthy interest in thong weed there were several types of slug about, a cuttlefish and a greater pipefish. The alternative entry to the site gives a better rocky dive but we'll try that next time - it gives easier access to depth we only got as far as 10m as we spent ages chasing little stuff on the sandy side of the site..
Sponge course dives
Sponge course dives
The course fitted in a dive each day, from Fort Bovisand on Saturday and Phoenix quay on Sunday. We were searching out sponge samples but there was plenty of time to see other good stuff. What we mostly found out was how hard it is to tell sponges apart, many appear in lots of widely different shapes and lots look very similar and can only be told apart by microscopic analysis of their tiny 'spicules' - which are extremely attractive but invisible to the naked eye. So really the most important discovery was how little we knew.
In the hope of helping out here's a gallery of the sponges we were fairly sure of... surprisingly few I thought once we'd gathered them together. Mostly repeats from the main gallery
sponge_a _likes
Sponge_a _likes
There was no shortage of spongey things - here's 'what not to ID' when it comes to sponges - Porifera. Mostly repeats from the main gallery

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