England

Seaweed survey finds rare sponge off coast of Norfolk

Seaweed
Image caption The research looked at different types of seaweed around the country

A survey of seaweed on the coast of England has found a purple sponge off the Norfolk coast which has never been discovered in Britain before.

The Wildlife Trusts survey looked at the coasts of Essex, Sussex, Norfolk, Suffolk, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland.

The survey also found seaweed species new to the east coast of England, including the red seaweed.

The unknown purple sponge was found during dives off East Runton.

An unidentified sea-slug which is new to Norfolk was also found.

'Important finds'

Surveying the North Sea at a number of locations over a period of 10 days earlier this month, experts found in total some 131 types of seaweed, including four non-native species.

While starlet sea anemones, which are listed as a conservation priority in the UK, were seen along the Suffolk and Norfolk coast.

The survey focused on seaweed but the team of surveyors, which included marine biologists, volunteer divers, a botanist and a wild food expert, used the opportunity to look at other species in the relatively unexplored waters.

The information gathered from the research, along with a wildlife trusts scheme to analyse nature on the shoreline, could be used in the future to help identify areas of special importance for marine life above and below the sea surface.

Joan Edwards, head of living seas for the wildlife trusts, said: "This survey has thrown up some important finds.

"Although the main objective was to survey seaweed, the team took advantage of being in a relatively unexplored environment to survey other species, resulting in the sponge discovery off Norfolk.

"The samples and results are still awaiting full analysis. We have no doubt that once this is done they'll form a crucial part of our knowledge base around what's living in the North Sea off the east coast of England."

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