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  • A new species of freshwater sponge, Corvospongilla moochalabrensis, has been discovered in Moochalabra Dam in Wyndham
  • This is the first time the Corvospongilla genus has been reported in Australia

A new species of freshwater sponge has been discovered in Wyndham. This is the first time the genus has been reported in Australia.

The new species, Corvospongilla moochalabrensis, is named after Moochalabra Dam, where it was found by Water Corporation staff, who delivered it to the Western Australian Museum for identification.

The freshwater sponge fauna is not well known in Australia. Only 220 freshwater sponge species have been recorded worldwide, with 27 recorded from Australia.

WA Museum staff collaborated with experts in Italy and Germany who confirmed the new species.

Using DNA samples, it was confirmed that Corvospongilla moochalabrensis is new to science. It is one of only 20 species of the Corvospongilla genus to be described worldwide. The other 19 have been found throughout the world's freshwater systems, but never in the Australasian, Antarctic, or Pacific regions.

The genus is thought to have origins with Gondwanaland, from more than 180 million years ago, when the southern continents (South America, Africa, India, Australia and Antarctica) formed the supercontinent Gondwana. This large landmass would have enabled the spread of freshwater sponges.

Known for their efficient filtration system, freshwater sponges are crucial components of healthy ecosystems. They are adapted to arid environments and, in the absence of water, are resistant to drying out due to their ability to produce small, resilient clusters of cells called gemmules that have lower metabolic activity. When favourable conditions occur, the gemmules develop into sponges.

The WA Museum and Water Corporation acknowledge the Balanggarra Traditional Owners of the Wyndham area where this specimen was found.

The publication can be viewed here

Comments attributed to Culture and the Arts Minister David Templeman:

"Discovering this new species of freshwater sponge and recording Australia's first Corvospongilla in Wyndham's Moochalabra Dam is incredibly exciting. It is a great addition to the State Collection and contributes to a greater understanding of Western Australia's extraordinary biodiversity and to the global understanding of biodiversity in freshwater ecosystems.

"I congratulate the WA Museum and Water Corporation for this fantastic collaboration. Identifying and describing a new species is truly fantastic and so exciting for our State. I also hope this new species identification prompts people working in remote waterway environments to collect samples of unusual specimens for identification at the WA Museum."

Comments attributed to Water Minister Dave Kelly:

"The sponge was discovered by chance when Water Corporation staff investigated a technical issue with the treatment membranes at the Wyndham Water Treatment Plant.

"Investigations revealed that the sponge was damaging the membranes, so Water Corporation staff sought advice from the WA Museum on identifying the species and how to mitigate its impact.

"It's fascinating to think that this species has been evolving for millions of years and that we have only now discovered its presence. It certainly is a sponge with good taste, as Wyndham's water from Moochalabra Dam was voted the best tasting tap water in WA.

"I'm really pleased that the sponge's name reflects its Kimberley roots, and I commend all those involved from Water Corporation's Wyndham and Water Quality teams and the WA Museum."

Media contact:
Culture and the Arts Minister's office - 6552 5400
Water Minister's office - 6552 6100 

The sponge at the Wyndham Water Treatment Plant

A gemmule cut open to show the inside (courtesy: Università degli Studi Di Sassari)