VIDEO: Just off Nova Scotia's coast, Russian Hat sponges shrug off climate change

An unusual glass sponge population off Nova Scotia’s coast has endured more than a century of temperature and salinity changes, researchers from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography have found. But exactly how these deep sea organisms have toughed it out in an area known as the Emerald Basin remains a mystery.

“We do know that the population has persisted since the late 1800s at least, (when) it was first discovered,” said marine biologist Lindsay Beazley, who has studied this glass sponge population about 100 kilometres southeast of Sambro since 2016. “And during that time the Emerald Basin has been subjected to a variability in temperature and salinity.”

For example, temperatures in the 1960s went as low as 3.5 C but there have been times over the past 100 years that the temperature has reached 12 C at the bottom of the basin, which is about 200 metres deep.

Those kinds of temperature swings are usually hard on sea sponges. But the Emerald Basin glass sponge colony seems to be thriving with a population density of about 16 individuals per square metre, Beazley said.

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