STATES CHRONICLE – Last year, in a deep sea exploration, Hawaiian researchers found a sponge the size of a minivan. The spectacular creature might be thousands of years old. It belongs to the Rossellidae family, and it is 1.5 meters wide and 3.5 meters long.
Although dolphins use sponges to uncover food from the seabed, surely no dolphin has laid its beak on this mammoth.
The sponge is considered to be the most ancient animal in the world; it is also the simplest. The larger species filter seawater, recycle nutrients and offer shelter to other smaller species. Although they’re kept busy with all of these activities, they live around 2,300 years.
Sponges are believed to be the ancestors of all complex animals. Their ecosystem services have probably helped aerate early-days seas and boost marine life 750 million years ago. Mostly they feed on single-cells organisms filtered from the seawater, but some species eat even small crustaceans.
With two remotely operated vehicles (ROV) in a dive at the Papahānaumokuākea site, a team of NOAA Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument specialists captured the footage of the huge sponge.
The site where the marine animal was found is one of the world’s biggest marine conservation areas. Now the site is also the home of the largest known sponge in the world.
Marine organisms that live in deep seas need a stable environment, a habitat that does not change to accommodate their slow growing rates. The sponge became so large probably because it was undisturbed for a long, very long time.
Experts don’t know exactly how old the sponge is, but they estimate it has reached millennia because there are coral species older than four thousand years old living in those depths, the oldest being 4,500 years old. The creature appeared from nowhere behind the high-definition cameras of the ROV.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration deep-sea expedition was looking for corals and sponges and just had gotten a few close-ups with the ROV when literally out of the blue, the astonishingly large sponge appeared. It lives at a depth of 7,000 feet from the ocean surface; the scientists were baffled.
The NOAA sponge and ROV expedition findings were published under de title “The largest sponge in the world?” in Springer Link’s Marine Biodiversity section.
Image Source: Zme Science