Bury The Hatchet – A Sponge Trusting Worm

If you have ever trusted a foe, and had the fortune of seeing a foe turn friend, then you and your new-found friend have more in common with a sea sponge and worm than you may imagine. In the ocean there exists a very unlikely relationship between would be predator and prey.

Carnivorous sponges are different from sea sponges in that they actively catch and consume prey, rather than filtering micro nutrients out of the water.

Among their prey are sea worms. They are more diverse than its terrestrial cousin the earthworm. A particular carnivorous sponge and a sea worm have learned to bury the hatchet and cooperate with one another. Let’s find out how these predators and prey became productive partners.

Watch Out It’s a Meat Eater

This carnivorous sponge, Chondrocladia robertballardi was discovered on sea mounts located in the north-east Atlantic Ocean. Carnivorous sponges made their appearance at least 60 million years ago ( ScienceNordic). These relatively new sea sponges evolved the ability to snare and devour prey, are and devour prey, including crustaceans and sea worm.

The remoteness of their habitat make it all but impossible to reach, causing the nutrient levels to be too low for sponges to survive by filtering the water.

We are Family

Do you remember, as a child, digging up some dirt? Well, if the soil it was moist, and it was warm outside (like summer), then you probable found some earthworms – also called night crawlers. Sea worms are its cousin as they both belong to the phylum Annelida.

Sea worms (polychaetes) have one notable difference – bristles – which help them navigate their aquatic environment.

Our sea worm in question (Neopolynoe africana) is alto known as the scale worm. It’s on our carnivorous sponge’s menu – yet it is not.

Let’s Get Along

One Carnivorous Sea Sponge has found something more beneficial to do with its prey (scale worm) than eat it. It figured that cooperation will bring it more benefit than one single meal. But why would a potential prey will bury the hatchet with a predator? Let’s see.

Learning From Nature

If you have ever had the rare opportunity of turning a foe into a friend, then you have certainly reaped the benefits of friendship over animosity.

These two seemingly primitive animals have done just that. It’s amazing that without the power of thought these natural foes are able to devise a better way to exist, which favored both species. This can have great implications for all of us – if nature instinctively prefers that which benefits both animals, rather than one creature over the other, then maybe humans are meant to cooperate and seek what benefits us all, rather than one group over the other.

Rather than making this worm its next meal, this carnivorous sponge allows it to live in a furrow that it creates. So, how do they both benefit from this unusual arrangement? In order to find out there are various analyses that investigators can perform, including DNA tests and molecular techniques (Natural HIstory Museum).

Investigators speculate that the sea worm’s bio luminescence attracts prey that both animals can consume. Whatever the case may be, both specimens are being benefited.

Another sponge that engages in a symbiotic relationship with another animal is the glass sponge. This fascinating sponge allows a pair of shrimps to live inside its skeleton. The pair become trapped, but are not consumed by the glass sponge; rather, they are allowed to live there for life. Their offspring are small enough to escape, and eventually will find a new glass sponge where the cycle will begin anew.

Competition benefits the few, while cooperation is good for many. We being conscious beings can surely pay attention to nature and implement this better way to live.

Cooperation Over Competition

Cooperation is by far a better survival strategy than is competition. You would think that would be especially true for thinking beings such as ourselves.

A carnivorous sea sponge and sea worm have done just that. Naturally the worm would become the sponge’s next meal; through pure instinct, however, these two ingenious creatures have created a superior way to live to have both creatures benefit.

Investigators are trying to discover how each animal benefits from this symbiotic relationship. It could be that the worms bio luminescence attracts prey that both animals can consume. What is certain is that both creatures stand to benefit.

This is yet another lesson from nature, which we can learn much from. These two amazing creatures can’t certainly think; yet, their very instinct is enough to see the obvious. That is, cooperation can very well be a superior surviving strategy than competition.

We must make sure, whenever we face conflict, that we have not overlooked a potential beneficial solution through cooperation. I have confidence that we can indeed turn many conflicts into opportunities for cooperation and mutual growth.

A different sponge that engages in symbiotic relationship with another animal is the Glass Sponge. It allows a pair of shrimps inside its skeleton where they become trapped for life. Instead of consuming them the sponge lets then remain, grow and reproduce. Their offspring, being small enough, are able to leave the latticed skeleton only to find a new glass sponge and repeat the cycle once more.

We humans allow both competition and cooperation as part our lives. We instinctively know that cooperation brings benefit to the largest number of people when compared to competition.

Competition seems to supersede cooperation when the parties can’t or won’t see any other way. This is understandable when it involves animals, since animals can’t reason.

We on the other hand can and do reason. This means that maybe it should be more obvious to us. Sea sponges don’t stand to reason, but their experience as a species surpasses our own by hundreds of millions of years. Although the carnivorous sponge appeared more recently, it still surpasses human time on earth by tens of millions of years.

Sea sponges in general are involved in symbiotic relationships; most do so with microbes that offer the sponge protection by way of chemical defenses.

It’s difficult to ignore the outstanding success that sea sponges have had as a species, and cooperation is a common threat that runs through their members.

If we can take a page from this highly successful species, then we may stand a chance to survive the many changes that will surely come.

Do you have a friend that began as a foe? What do you think about the power of cooperation? Have you witnessed animals that are natural adversaries cooperate rather than compete? How about people that have decided that cooperation is better than strife? Please leave your comment!



Thanks for stopping by,






  1. Not a sponge expert, but I have seen and used a lot of worms in my days of fishing. If the worm cooperates with the fish, then I get to catch one:)

    I know that’s not quite the cooperation you are talking about. I have seen a lot of different animals cooperating with each other, and fish. There are small fish that eat the dead skin from other fish or small insects as well.

    Water buffalo have small birds that eat bugs off of them.

    There are a lot of these type of examples and I appreciate the lesson you are also teaching us in this article.

    Very cool, thanks.

    • Hey Curtis, You understand how nature uses cooperation to benefit as many different species as possible. In fact, it has done so for hundreds of millions of years – maybe as long as life has existed. 

      Thanks for your comment


  2. Hello there Jose and thank you for this informative and thorough article. Let me tell you that I was impressed by the evolution of these amazing creatures. I have not heard about sea sponged from my biology class in high school. Completely forgot about them.

    If only people can make these kind of friendships and create peace rather than war and competition. As you well noticed, these “primitive” creatures are in some way better than humans. This world would be much better place if we wouldn’t try to always win and step on others.

    I will bookmark your website.

    Amazing content.


    • Hello Strahinja, I hope all is well. I’m very glad you found this post informative. I actually don’t remember if they mentioned sponges in high school. But, I tell you, they should. Sponges are the oldest ( most successful ) animal on earth. There’s so much we can learn from their huge success. One important lesson is cooperation, as it helps not only the sponge, but the other species as well. That’s a lesson in itself – when other species are doing well, so would you. 

      It’s not only limited to our own specie – the benefits that is.

      Thanks for your great comment, take good care!


  3. Hi Cruz,

    It is really nice to know about Carnivorous Sponge. I did not heard about those before reading your article. This article made me fully amazed. Yes, we should cooperate than compete. Really, we have many things to learn from the nature. If we go back to the nature and think of the rules and the beauty of it, many problems of the time will be solved, I believe.

    Thanks for such a nice article. Please, keep let us know about such beautiful creatures.


    • Hello Radeet, I’m really glad I was able to show you something new. Nature is not only a provider of all we need to survive, it also has many important lessons for us. Cooperation is better for the many, while competition only benefits a select few.

      It’s seems only logical that we ought to do much more cooperation. These two amazing creatures belong to separate species and don’t  have the ability to reason like us. We, on the other hand, not only belong to the same species, but also think. It should be second nature for us to cooperate – imagine how different the world would be.

      Thank you for your great comment, take good care!


  4. Hi Jose, I enjoyed your post on sea sponges. I couldn’t have said it better the lesson human being should learn from nature. As you rightly stated competition benefits only but a few while cooperation stand to benefit many. The symbiotic relationship we see in nature between unlikely friends is a way the master planner teaches us that even in things we consider low life, low profile, we have life lessons to learn. These sea sponges taught us good lesson that we need to live for one another not just for ourselves. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hello Gina, Wow! You described my intent so well. These two creatures don’t even belong to the same species as we humans do. They don’t even have the luxury of thought or even free will. This implies that cooperation is much more than a strategy people occasionally come up with.

      Cooperation is a much more efficient survival method than competition. Competition serves only the few (ego) while cooperation serves us all.

      Thank you for your awesome comment, take good care.


  5. Hi I appreciate this wormy article. When first reading I was not sure what this was about. But being flexible of mind I have found it’s a very enlightening way of learning about a new species today which helps me appreciate the God’s creation and his purpose for using them. Thank you very much

    • Hello Andrew, I’m glad you have reaped some enlightment from this post. Creation uses nature to teach us the best way to live. In this case we learn that cooperation enriches more than competition.

      Thanks for your comment,


  6. This was such an interesting article to stumble upon. I never knew that sponges could be carnivorous! It makes sense if there are not enough nutrients in the water, as you mentioned.And then learning about the cooperation between the sponge and scale worm was fascinating.I couldn’t imagine being that shrimp in the glass sponge; I like my freedom too much. It’s very true, as you say, that we can learn a lot about coexisting from nature.Thanks for sharing this post, I learned a lot today!

    • Hi Jerimy, I’m really glad you were able to learn something new from my post today. Nature has countless lessons for us to learn from.

      I understand how hard it would be for us – humans – to spend our lives inside a glass sponge, or any enclosure for that matter. But, it works for this particular shrimp. Remember their primary motive is survival – we seem to be interested in more than survival; we think that freedom, justice are important as well.

      Thank you for your comment, take good care.


  7. What a delightful read first thing in the morning!  I’ve always been fascinated by the creatures of the sea.  I worked as an aquarist for years and got to watch all manner of live in our salt water tanks.

    The symbiotic relationship of the glass sponge and shrimp is as profound as you describe it.  My wish is that more people like you can truly see the benefits of working together even with great differences that historically have separated instead of uniting.  I strive,in everything I do to bring people together from all walks of life and beliefs.  

    I found , well, it was more like a scare at first, I was cleaning a tank one day and a giant worm shot out of some live rock in the tank.  After the initial shock, I realized how beautiful it was (after ejecting my arm from the tank as quickly as possible ha!)  If you youtube “Pile Worm Nereis brandti 1” you’ll see what the shock and then awe factors were. Sponge Bob’s “alaskan bull worm”‘s got nothing on this baby *chuckles*  

    Being observant of life around us reaps huge benefits and, for me, it helps me understand the bigger picture and how I might better my relationships and communications with others.  In the video at this article, what do you think those squids were thinking while observing that robotic arm?! 

    • Hey Fyre, I am with you, as I also have a love for the ocean and it’s inhabitants. It’s so immense and uncontrollable by people – it’s literally it’s own world.

      These two amazing creatures are doing nature’s bidding and teaching us that cooperation is something that has been conjured up well before we even stepped foot on this planet.

      Cooperation is a superior survival strategy to competition. Cooperation benefits the largest number of people, while competition only benefits the least number of people. We all belong to the same species; that means we should be able to cooperate even more naturally than these two creatures which belong to two separate species.

      I think it’s really cool that you worked in an aquarium. I can imagine the shock you felt when you spotted that sea worm coming out of the rock. But then you realized how beautiful it was in fact. That’s  a really good story – thanks for sharing that.

      I really appreciate your comment, take good care.


  8. Hey, Jose, thanks for this thoughtful post.  Informative as well.  And yes, I do believe we could learn a few things form this Sponge.  

    Cooperation has always been a good thing.  Scientists do this al the time when they come together and figure out how to cure things like certain cancers or vaccinations against certain diseases.  And then there are the astronomers who get together and created machines for discovering what’s out there in the universe.

    Cooperation happens in many ways than we could list here but when it comes to having a society that fully cooperates with each other?… well, we definitely fall short in that area.  Oh yes, we do sign trade agreements and peace treaties.  On the outside, they look like cooperation but, in essence, each country is trying to get the best deal for themselves.  BREXIT is a good example of this.

    Yes, we do see cooperation in many aspects of the human community but I think it is going to be a long time before we get past the mindset, (or instinct if you will), of “ME FIRST”.

    Untill we can get past that, I think there will always be the threat of wars or unrest between nations and/or religions.

    Thanks for this well thought out post.  You have definitely given us some food for thought and conversation.

    The best to you,


    • Hi there  Wayne, you  are so right! We do cooperate in many  aspects, such as finding cures or closing the be ozone 

      hole in the atmosphere. But as you so well put it, when it comes to living together in this world we can fall far short.

      I notice that when there’s a common cause then you’ll find more cooperation. Maybe we just need 

      remember that we have much more in common.

      Nature seems to be know this as both be plants and animals sustain one another, either directly or be indirectly.

      I really appreciate your be insightful comment, be well..


  9. Thank you Jose, for this fascinating article on a a very important and philosophical topic that I would never have otherwise known about! The scientific facts about these ancient creatures is quite interesting and the images you provide are amazing.

    I especially like the way you compare their symbiotic relationship with the competitive follies of most of humanity. Indeed, if we could learn to recognize the obvious, as you say, “reap the benefits of friendship over animosity,” our world would be a much better place. I will definitely be bookmarking this site!


    • Hello Sue, I’m really glad to see that you found my post appealing. Nature has numerous lessons that we can 

      learn much from. There have been more be than a be few times when I have been been touched by certain  animal 


      It must be that cooperation is something universal,  which nature has known about for much longer than we can have.

      I really appreciate be your comment,


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