Fisheries and Oceans Canada researchers at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography discover new species

News Release

DARTMOUTH, NOVA SCOTIA – A new species of carnivorous sponge has been discovered in the North Atlantic Ocean by a team of scientists from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography (BIO).

The sponge, Cladorhiza kenchingtonae, was named after Dr. Ellen Kenchington of Fisheries and Oceans Canada because of her numerous contributions to the scientific field of deep sea benthic ecology, biodiversity monitoring and protection.

The sponge is approximately two metres in length and feeds on zooplankton. The surface of the sponge is covered in microscopic hook-like glass spicules (sponge bones) so the whole sponge has a Velcro like surface.

A sample of the sponge was collected as part of Dr. Kenchington’s research trip in 2010 aboard the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Hudson.

While the intent of the research was not to go looking for new species, when the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) came across the sponge it was clear that it was something that the scientists on board had never seen before.

The sample of this sponge was collected from the Flemish Cap, northeast of the Grand Banks at a depth of almost 3000 metres below the surface of the ocean. It was the unusual body type that led the BIO scientists to believe they were looking at a new species of sponge.

The sponge will be featured in an international paper this summer.


“I can still recall the strong emotion I felt when I found out the sponge was being named after me. I think the feeling came in part from the naming of the sponge, which is truly a great honour, and partly that my colleagues had such a high opinion of my work to recognize me in this way. It was very overwhelming and totally unexpected! ”

Ellen Kenchington, Research Scientist, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

“New discoveries highlight the importance of continuous research in our oceans from coast to coast to coast. All Canadians can be proud to have this exciting new species named after one of our own Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists.”

The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Quick Facts

  • Established in 1962, BIO is a multidisciplinary research facility located in Dartmouth that is home to employees from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Department of National Defense and Public Services and Procurement Canada.

  • Dr. Kenchington is an expert in Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems and Sensitive Benthic Areas. Her work delineating deep-sea habitat and her participation in expert national and international panels have led to the establishment of over a dozen closures to bottom contact fishing, protecting important benthic habitats both domestically and in the highs seas.

  • The sponge will be described in a paper titled “A review of carnivorous sponges (Porifera: Cladorhizidae) from the boreal North Atlantic and Arctic” in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. The paper was authored by a team of Norwegian and Bedford Institute of Oceanography scientists.

Associated Links


Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Laura Gareau
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister
Fisheries and Oceans Canada



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