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Oceana Identifies Carnivorous Sponge in the Mediterranean

carnivorous sponge

Carnivorous sponge (Asbestopluma hypogea) among cnidaria and other sponges in Spain's Balearic Islands. © Oceana

Exciting news from across the pond: Oceana scientists, along with scientists from German and Italian universities, have identified carnivorous sponges in the deep waters of the Mediterranean in Spain and Italy.

Although the species, Asbestopluma hypogea, was first discovered in the 1990s, very little was known about it until recently. Oceana’s research vessel, Ranger, made crucial discoveries about the sponge’s habitat using an underwater robot (ROV) during its 2007 and 2010 expeditions.

Asbestopluma hypogea is no ordinary sea sponge. Most sea sponges obtain nutrients by filtering tiny food particles out of the surrounding water as it flows past the sponge – but not Asbestopluma hypogea. This tiny carnivorous sea sponge has adapted to life in areas where food is scarce. They capture small crustaceans using filaments covered with hook-like spicules, taking more than 10 days to finish each meal. And that’s despite having no digestive tract, limited mobility and being very tiny (between 1 and 1.5 centimeters). How cool is that?

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