Travelling far up, to get deep down: MAE researchers sample deep-sea sponges in Norway

Published on
December 15, 2016

The last couple of months, Dr. Ronald Osinga and PhD candidate Erik Wurz have been busy with setting up a cold-water aquarium system in the CARUS Research facilities. They want to use it to perform multifactorial stressor experiments on marine sponges. As part of the EU funded HORIZON2020 project SponGES, they will focus on deep-water species thriving in pitch-black deep-sea habitats. They aim for assessing the influence of environmental changes and anthropogenic influences on the physiological performance of sponges in these extreme environments. One of the model organisms is the sponge species Geodia barretti. This cold-water adapted species is highly abundant in the North-East-Atlantic and forms dense grounds accounting for up to 94% of benthic invertebrate biomass.

Now, Ronald and Erik have transported individuals of Geodia barretti by air fright from Bergen in Norway to Wageningen, for intense eco-physiological studies under a tight time and temperature schedule. Against all odds (too bad weather conditions for sampling, bureaucracy, complications with customs and logistic companies) the MAE researchers beat Murphy and his unwritten law once more and managed to introduce the sensitive sponges safe and sound into the seawater system in CARUS. The next weeks will show if the efforts of planning and setting up a unique aquarium system will pay back, and if the 32 sponge individuals will perform well in their new simulated ex situ acclimatisation experiment to evaluate the influence of increasing CO2 concentrations and seawater temperatures on the habitat forming key-species Geodia barretti.