Sponges are animals. Yes! Spongebob is a real sea animal, and the cartoon isn’t entirely fiction. Those sponges you use to wash dishes and bath, some were once alive.
More so, they’ve been around since ancient times and have been of great economic value throughout the ages. What do sponges eat? We’ll discuss this in detail.
Sponges Habits And Biology
Sponges are said to be among the first sea animals that ever existed. They are multicellular (celled) aquatic animals that inhabit all seas.
So far, there are about 5000 known species. You can find them 8,500 meters (29,000 feet) below sea level or more. You can also find sponges in freshwater bodies. That said, 98% of all sponge species occur in the sea.
The most distinct feature of sponges is that they lack organs. Sponges are basically a mass of living cells and fibers.
Most sponge species are only a few centimeters in size, whereas some can be less than a centimeter long.
They come in different shapes as well. Some can be urn-shaped, tube-shaped, and others may look like branches and may be up to 2 meters tall. Their sizes vary with species, environmental conditions, age, and food supply.
Sponges also vary in terms of color. Deepwater sponges commonly exhibit dull colors such as brown, whereas shallow-water sponges are brightly colored.
Generally, sponges are hermaphroditic (contain both male and female germ cells) and will reproduce asexually. Most species, however, reproduce sexually.
The lifespan of larger species of sponges tends to live longer than other smaller species. For example, bath sponges (Spongia Hippospongia) may live as long as twenty years.
Sponges also possess the capability to regenerate. They can grow back damaged or lost parts that make up their body.
These magnificent water creatures further act as homes for other animals and organisms. Some organisms that live in them, such as epibionts, act as parasites that live and feed on the sponges.
Parasites like mites and rotifers live off freshwater sponges. These parasites will live, feed on, and lay eggs on freshwater sponges.
Sponges are divided into three distinct groups in relation to how their skeletons are made. Demosponges are the group that contains the highest number of sponges. These sponges make their skeletons from sponging (a special protein).
Bony sponges form their skeletons by making use of calcium carbonate. These sponges are usually tiny, typically 3-4 inches tall.
Lastly, glass sponges make their skeletons using silicon dioxide. They are located in the deepest parts of the ocean and make up about 7% of all known sponge species.
What Do Sponges Eat In The Wild?
Sponges draw water through their pores, then filter particles for consumption, and finally eject the filtered water from their bodies.
Their feeding process depends on thin structures on their bodies called the flagellum. The flagella sway depending on the direction of the ocean currents, drawing water and collecting particles of nutrients and oxygen.
Furthermore, the flagellum is used to eliminate waste such as carbon dioxide and excess water. The flagella are located all over the sponge’s body which makes them among the most effective feeders.
Most sponge species are detrivores, meaning they feed mainly on organic debris (dirt) particles and other tiny life forms that they filter out of ocean water.
Whatever the ocean currents carry their way, they will consume. Therefore, sponges are not particular about what they eat. They can digest large as well as tiny organisms and particles for sustenance.
Some species of sponges, such as the harp sponge (Chondrocladia lyra), are carnivorous. They have between 2-6 radiating tentacles, which have hooks. The tentacles catch small prey like shrimp when ocean currents push the animal the sponge’s way.
Once the harp sponge captures its prey, it is engulfed and immediately begins to digest it.
Generally, sponges eat the following items either at sea or freshwater bodies:
- Plankton – are organisms found in water that are unable to move against water currents. They serve as a crucial source of food for marine life, sponges included.
- Viruses – are eaten primarily by breadcrumb sponges. They digest and destroy viruses.
- Bacteria – are eaten and eliminated through the feeding process of sponges.
- Sponges will also absorb dissolved nutrients directly from the water bodies they inhabit.
- Aquatic animals – Carnivorous sponges will feed on small marine animals like shrimp, fish, and other crustaceans.
Facts About Sponges
Sponges are some of the simplest animals that scientists and researchers once classified as plants. They are also said to be one of the oldest living animals.
There are plenty more amazing things about these water-dwelling animals. Below are some more exciting facts about sponges:
- As mentioned above, sponges are among the longest living creatures ever. These marine creatures have been around for more than 600 million years.
- Sponges don’t have heads, brains, eyes, ears, arms, legs, muscles, nerves, or organs of any kind. They are among the simplest multicellular organisms on earth.
- Sponges consist of two proteins which are spicule and collagen.
- Sponges can change their body shapes depending on the area or surface they inhabit.
- Despite their lack of organs, sponges are made of specialized cells that carry out all biological functions.
- Sponges have pores all over their bodies that filter in water for food and oxygen and excrete the waste.
- Some species of deep-sea sponges can live up to 200 years. Other species might live even longer.
- Sponges don’t move. They remain in a stationary position throughout their lives. Some are attached to other surfaces, such as rocks, shells, coral, and other marine animals.
- Body pores on sponges known as the oscular circulate water and waste.
- About 4-5,000 years ago, countries like Greece and Tunisia practiced sponge diving and harvesting.
- Only 15 out of the thousands of sponge species found worldwide have economic value.
- Ancient Romans used sponges as mops and for applying paint. Roman soldiers used them in place of drinking vessels.
- Nowadays, we use sponges in arts and crafts such as jewelry making, pottery, decorating, painting, and surgical medicine.
- Women use sea sponge tampons as a more natural alternative to conventional tampons to absorb menstrual flow.
- You can use sea sponges for cleaning your pets, be it cats or dogs.
- One of the most frequent uses of sea sponges is for bathing. They are called natural bath sponges. These sponges contain antibacterial properties and are also toxic-free.
- The Mediterranean honeycomb is the priciest of all sponges. This species is known to produce the best bathing sponge.
- Fino, also called the Mediterranean silk fine, or Greek bathing sponge is excellent for face and body scrub. It is rare and costly.
- The elephant ear sponge is obtained from the deeper seas of the Mediterranean sea. People use the sponge in painting, ceramic art, and for decorative purposes in the church.
- The yellow tube sponge species ability to regenerate is impressive in comparison to other species. When a predator breaks a piece of the yellow sponge, that piece can reattach and grow a whole new sponge.
- Sea sponges are capable of filtering water 100,000 times their size. This ability makes them efficient in extracting bacteria and other pollutants from water, hence keeping it safe.
- Sponges are utilized on an industrial scale to soak up pesticides, lead, and bacteria off Europe’s coastline.
- Some chemicals produced by sponges are beneficial in medical fields as they are used in cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, respiratory, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, and antibiotic treatment.
- Giant tube sponges make up some of the oldest sponge species. They can live as long as 2000 years and maybe even longer.
- The boring sponge (Cliona spp) is a species named after its peculiar habit of boring holes into oyster shells, eventually killing them. This species is considered a serious pest to oysters found in an area known as the Chesapeake Bay in the U.S.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Why are sponges known as sponges?
Sponges name Porifera is derived from a Latin word meaning “pore bearer.”. The name is suitable for sponges as their bodies are covered in skin, one-cell thick, as well as pores.
How long is the lifespan of sponges?
Sponges are said to be the longest living creatures on earth. However, little is known about their lifespans. Some large sponge species found in shallow waters of the world are estimated to live for more than 2,000 years.
Is SpongeBob SquarePants a sponge?
The main character in the American animated series SpongeBob SquarePants is a sponge. Stephen Hillenburg, the series creator, was a marine science teacher who found the sponge highly fascinating.
He felt the animal was underrepresented and thought it weird. SpongeBob usually displays traits typical of real-life sponges, such as filter-feeding. He is an example of the yellow sea sponge species.
Sponges are spread throughout all aquatic environments, whether marine or freshwater bodies. Most sponges play a vital role in cleaning water bodies by eliminating many harmful substances that threaten marine life.
We believe you now hold the answers to “what do sponges eat?”