North Norfolk's unique sponge

In 2011 Rob Spray and Dawn Watson were undertaking a seaweed survey off East Runton as part of a wider survey organised by the Wildlife Trusts.

They came across a purple sponge that they hadn’t seen before, which was later confirmed by Dr Claire Goodwin, a sponge expert at National Museums Northern Ireland, as a previously unknown species.

Sponges are simple animals, not plants, that form colonies and feed by filtering minute food particles from the surrounding sea water. This species is an encrusting sponge – it covers and takes the shape of whatever it is growing on. 

It hasn’t yet been formally named scientifically, but it does now have a local name, thanks to a competition for local schoolchildren – the Parpal Dumplin.

This reflects the local dialect –  “because it’s puple and looks like a dumpling” as competition winner Sylvie says.