TOP: Killer sponge Asbestopluma monticola (in situ and in the lab)
BELOW: Decomposing prey impaled on sponge spines
MORE KILLER SPONGES NAMED AND DESCRIBED
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
MBARI News Release April 14, 2014
Scientists first discovered that some sponges are carnivorous about 20 years ago.
A new [April 2014] paper authored by MBARI marine biologist Lonny Lundsten and two Canadian researchers describes four new species of carnivorous sponges living on the deep seafloor, from the Pacific Northwest to Baja California.
They don’t look like sponges; they look like bare twigs or small shrubs covered with tiny hairs.
But those hairs consist of tightly packed bundles of microscopic hooks that trap small animals such as shrimp-like amphipods. Once an animal becomes trapped, it takes only a few hours for sponge cells to begin engulfing and digesting it. After several days, all that is left is an empty shell.
MBARI researchers videotaped the new sponges on the seafloor, then collected a few samples for taxonomic work and species-reference collections. Back in the lab, when they looked closely at the collected sponges, the scientists discovered, as Lundsten put it, “numerous crustacean prey in various states of decomposition.”
Continue reading …
Good days are ahead for carnivoriphiles:
“Numerous additional carnivorous sponges from the Northeast Pacific (which have been seen and collected by the authors) await description, and many more, likely, await discovery.”
IMAGES from Zootaxa: Lundsten et al, “Four new species of Cladorhizidae (Porifera, Demospongiae, Poecilosclerida) from the Northeast Pacific” [available as a PDF]
- [top] Asbestopluma monticola sp. nov.: (A) red arrow indicating collection of holotype from Davidson Seamount, (B) lab image of holotype, (C–E) additional specimens showing density, habitat, and community at Davidson Seamount.
- [bottom] (A) Filaments of Asbestopluma monticola sp. nov. Images of prey in various states of decomposition on A. monticola sp. nov.holotype (A–C), Cladorhiza caillieti sp. nov.paratype (D), and Cladorhiza evae sp. nov.(E–G).