Weekly Sponge-date 6 – The Exceeding-50 Shades of Sponge

Many sponges are quite similar in that they share the feeding mechanism of straining food from the water. However, what they lack in feeding diversity, they make up for in their massive range of body shapes and colours within and between species. Ever looked out your window while trying to write an essay on salt marshes and thought – “hey that cloud looks like a Beluga whale” or “hey that cloud looks like Kim Kardashian’s bum” (probably to scale as well!). Well sponges can be a likewise distraction!

Cloud sponge
Cloud sponge (Aprocallistes vastus) This image was originally posted to Flickr by dphershman at: http://flickr.com/photos/75525471@N00/510006315.

Ironically there is actually a sponge called the cloud sponge (Aphrocallistes vastus). Due to lack of a superior simile, they do in fact look like clouds. However, they possess a vital difference. Clouds are nice to look at, but they quickly disappear. Cloud sponges are here to stay. They are one of the primary reef-building sponge species which are utilised by many organisms, long after sponges themselves die.

Picture of the Yellow Goiter Sponge
The Yellow Goiter Sponge (picture taken by the NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program)

Another example of an essential reef-building sponge is the yellow goiter sponge (Heterochone calyx). It may feed like many of its evolutionary brethren, but it looks like a gramophone. Imagine having that burst out some music in your sitting room. It would definitely add class (Hexactellida to be exact!) and provide quite the conversation piece!

Finally, another fantastic looking sponge is the stove pipe sponge (Aplysina archeri ). Technically this is a shallow water sponge species (not exactly in keeping with the overall blog theme), yet I could not resist mentioning it after seeing the photo below (COOKIES!). Forming tall tubes (5 feet high), these sponges do not stop growing in size until they die. Straws, chimneys, call these tubes what you will, there’s no denying that this is one funky looking sponge. Certainly, this sponge is a great example of the insane diversity of the sponge body plan.

An unusual natural face formation on a Stove Pipe Sponge, Aplysina archeri
Stove Pipe Sponge (Aplysina archeri) (Photo courtesy of Mauricio Handler Photography)

Sponges have even been used in art. Check out the sculptures displayed in the link below: http://www.underwatersculpture.com/environment/sponges/

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