Pur­ple haze over Rotto dis­cov­ery

Cockburn Gazette - - NEWS -

A NEW species of bar­na­cle has been named and de­scribed af­ter be­ing dis­cov­ered liv­ing on reefs off Rot­tnest Is­land.

The strik­ing pur­ple­coloured bar­na­cle mem­bra­nobal­anus por­phy­rophilus was first iden­ti­fied in WA and was later found in the South Aus­tralian Mu­seum col­lec­tion, hav­ing been col­lected in wa­ters around Kan­ga­roo Is­land.

WA Mu­seum cu­ra­tor of aquatic zo­ol­ogy An­drew Hosie said the bar­na­cle was dis­cov­ered dur­ing field­work by the mu­seum’s aquatic zo­ol­ogy de­part­ment.

“Un­like a typ­i­cal bar­na­cle that at­taches to rocks, mem­bra­nobal­anus por­phy­rophilus lives solely in ma­rine sponges,” he said.

“This means it is com­pletely em­bed­ded within the sponge body, with only a small hole al­low­ing the bar­na­cle to ex­tend its feath­ery limbs, called cirri, into the sur­round­ing wa­ter to trap food such as plank­ton.”

Mem­bra­nobal­anus por­phy­rophilus is known to in­habit only one species of sponge, the vi­brantly pur­ple Sphe­ciospon­gia pur­purea, which is en­demic to south­ern Aus­tralia and found from Ger­ald­ton to south­ern NSW.

“The fas­ci­nat­ing thing about this bar­na­cle is that the shell plates should be white and the body mostly trans­par­ent, but they are deeply stained by the pig­ments of the host,” Mr Hosie said.

“The sponge even re­tains the colours when dried or pre­served in ethanol.”

The bar­na­cle’s species name, por­phy­rophilus, trans­lates as pur­plelov­ing in ref­er­ence to the coloura­tion of the only known host.

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