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Types of Sea Sponges – Variety is king

If you notice the great variety of sponges that exists, you also observe the many shapes, colors and techniques these wonderful creatures employ to ensure their survival. The result is a vast array of wonderful diversity which adds to the magnificent display and vigor of coral reefs.

Sea sponges inhabit many aquatic habitats around our world and accordingly possess a variety of attributes which help them thrive in their given habitat. Resulting in an incredibly successful species on this planet. Let’s take a peek at some types of sea sponges; I’m confident you’ll be amazed.

Tube Sponge

When it comes to popularity, the tube sponge is the most recognizable of all the types of sea sponges. It has the familiar tubes, which it uses to expel the water that it filters for nutrients. They remind me of pipe organs found in cathedrals around the world.

Due to their diet and how they obtain it, they do well in areas with strong currents.

This type of sponge comes in a variety of colors, including gray, green, purple or blue. They adhere to the coral, where they live for their entire lives. Their habitat include the Caribbean, Florida, and the Gulf of Mexico. Sponges of this type include the Yellow tube sponge, Blue tube sponge, and the Stove-pipe sponge.

Red Boring Sponge

 

Also called the Yellow sponge, this particular sea sponge can be found all over the world. When it comes to settling down it initially digs a whole (about .20 inch) in limestone or even in a mollusk. Early in life the larva can become attached to mussels and/or clams. This will end up killing the host followed by colonization by the sponge.

By looking inside the whole, you’ll notice a featureless lump down inside. Later it grows larger forming a plate-like structure which is erected on its side. It ranges in color from yellow to orange

When they reproduce, they can do so either sexually or asexually. Asexual reproduction involves mitosis – they simply separate similar to the way cells do. The result will be a clone of the original sponge (Wikipedia). They also employ sexual reproduction by releasing sperm into the sea water; some find their way to the female sponge’s egg.

They reside in the Bahamas, the western Atlantic Ocean, Southern New England and in Narragansett Bay found on the northern side of Rhode Island Sound. These sponges live in lagoons or reefs; a dead mollusk or any other shelled creature can provide a home for these amazing sponges.

 

Giant Barrel Sponge

If you ever needed to hide inside a sponge the Giant Barrel Sponge will be a good choice. This  is one of the largest; it lives in the Caribbean sea and adjacent bodies of water such as off the east coast of Florida. It can grow to be six feet across with a large opening on the top. Some species of fish and invertebrates reside inside of it. These include Cardinal fishes, Gobies, shrimps and crabs.

Their colors include brown, red and purple (Sciencing). These colors can vary depending whether the sponge is growing in the light or in the dark; which depends on the depth at which it resides – this can range from 10 to 30 meters.

Black Ball Sponge

This ball or cake shape sponge prefers to live where currents can be found. Its shape is determined by the strength and direction of the current. Its color ranges from gray to slick black. This sponge’s surface is covered in barbed structures connected by ridges in an irregular pattern.

They make their home in the tropical waters off the coast of Florida, Cuba, Venezuela and the Virgin Islands. This sponge is known to have powerful chemical defenses against predatory fish. Any fish attempting to consume this sea sponge will be temporary paralyzed and experience loss of balance (Wikipedia). A fish known for consuming this sea sponge is the Queen Angelfish along with a few more predators.

How’s your body?

Did you know that sponges are classified into one of three groups according to their main body shape. Asconoid sponges are permeated tubes. Synconoid sponges are bigger with thicker walls; while leuconoid are the largest of all. They are also more complex and have numerous canals (Pets).

Calcareous Sponges

These small dull colored sponges are the most primitive of the three groups. Unlike the other two groups of sponges, they include both asconoid and synconoid members. Members of this group contain large spicules made up of calcium carbonate (Pets).

Of the 400 species in this group, their primary habitat are shallow temperate waters; those found in the tropical waters reside in coral reefs.

Glass Sponges

What do you think if I told you there’s a sponge made of glass?  Their skeleton is made of silica – the same component in glass – from which they derive their name. These unique sponges live in deep ocean waters – mainly in the Antarctic and Northern Pacific. They range in color from pale to orange and resemble cylinders protruding from the ocean floor.

They possess a unique ability to quickly conduct electrical signals throughout their bodies. This makes them especially efficient at responding to external stimuli (Wikipedia).

Although they resemble tubular synconoid sponges, they actually belong to the leuconoid group (Pets). Because these sea sponges live in such deep waters, they are not readily accessible by people.

 

Demospongiae

These are the most diverse of all the groups; they make up 76.2% of all species of sponges. (Wikipedia). These types of sponges are the most recognized by humans. They can grow quite large and brilliantly colored – such as red, blue, green, yellow, orange and brown. Thanks to this group of sponges, we are able to enjoy the exquisiteness of a sponge bath.

The skeleton is made of splinter-like structures, which is really a tangle of protein called spongin (The Life of a Sponge). Giving us the familiar and useful sponge we are used to.

They have a great diversity in body shape and can grow up to one meter wide. These sponges can be found in saltwater seafloors throughout the world; although presently their status is threatened (a-z-animals).

 

Variety is King

When it comes to versatility, natural sponges are second to none. This quality has made them the most successful animal to ever inhabit the planet. They vary greatly by color, size, shape and habitat. From the deep cold waters of Antarctica to the warm waters of the Caribbean, sea sponges know how to adapt to very different environments.

Body structure is the main characteristic that distinguish sponges from one another. Those that fall into the asconoid group have a punctured tubular shape. Those in the synconoid group are larger with thicker wall; while the leuconoid group contains the largest and more complex of all sponges.

These organisms are again divided into three other groups; calcerous sponges have a body structure made of calcium carbonate. The next group are the glass sponges. As the name suggests, their skeleton is made up of spicules which are made of silica, hence their name.

The third and final group is the demospongiae; these are the most recognizable sponges. Their skeleton is make of a protein called spongin. It gives their skeleton the soft texture we’re all familiar with.

Natural sponges are truly phenomenal creatures that have adapted to a variety of habitats and perilous conditions for over half a billion years. This is why they are situated in the most crucial crossroads of evolution – the rise of animals.

 

 

What do you think about the sea sponges great adaptability and sheer variety of characteristics? Are you impressed by this first of all animals tremendous success in survival in an ever-changing world? Please leave your comments below.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by,

 

 

Jose

 

JOSE CRUZ

2 Comments

  1. Hi Jose – thanks for sharing this interesting article. Who knew there was so much to learn about sponges? I never really thought of them as being creatures before. The range of colours is absolutely astonishing. I love the fact that some of them are so huge that fish can live inside them! I have actually been to the Greek island of Kalymnos where they still have an old fashioned sponge industry. All the best, Diane  

    • Hello Diane, I understand how it was when I didn’t know much about sea sponges either. A whole new world has opened up to me since I chose this niche. They are incredible survivors – being around for at least 600 million years –  more than any other animal that has ever lived. 

      They are the new frontier in medicine. https://thebestsponges.com/cur… The reason being that they produce powerful toxins to protect themselves against invaders. They evolved this defense mechanism as a adaptation to their immobile lifestyle.

      Thank you for your comment 

      Jose

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