Look at This: A New Species of Carnivorous Sponge

By Breanna Draxler | November 13, 2012 1:04 pm

carnivorous sponge

The elusive harp sponge dwells nearly two miles below the surface of the ocean, far deeper than humans are able to explore. No one even knew they existed before scientists off California’s Monterey Bay used a remote control vehicle to spy on the meat-eating sponge from afar. Their findings, published Oct. 18 in Invertebrate Biology, reveal the secrets of this slow-motion hunter.

The harp sponge, Chondrocladia lyra, has thin vertical fingers covered in fibers similar to Velcro. These barbs snare small crustaceans swept up in deep ocean currents. The sponge then wraps these tasty morsels in a thin membrane, dismembers them into bite-size pieces, and voila! Let the slow digestion process begin!

The sponge’s sticky fibers also come in handy for reproduction. Spheres at the end of the harp sponge’s branches produce compact balls of sperm, called spermatophores, which they release into the water. Neighboring sponges snag these sperm-bearing packages in order to fertilize the eggs contained farther down their branches.

Cameras on the researchers’ remote control vehicles also revealed that the harp sponge has many neighbors in its deep sea home, including sea anemones, sea pens, and sea cucumbers.

Image courtesy of Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World
  • http://thailandrocks.com chiangraiken

    Fascinating – and to think it’s part of the animal kingdom, not plants or fungi. Talk about survival under pressure…….

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

80beats

80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »