By Blane Perun
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The sea sponge was once classified as a plant because of its appearance and even its texture. However, in the mid 1700s zoologists determined that the sea sponge is actually an animal! It was named, porifera, and this means that it has many pores. That is a very suitable name for a sponge! If you have ever seen a natural sponge you know there are many little holes all over the sponge. Porifera has three subspecies. These include Demospongiae, Calcispongiae, and Hyalospongiae. Within these subspecies there are more than 5000 species of sponges that have been identified.
It is quite shocking for many to realize that sponges are found worldwide in all the different oceans. Also, sponges may live in places in the ocean where there is practically no light like in a sea cave, in deeper areas of the sea and even in shallow waters. Another shocking fact is that sponges thrive in the Antarctic Ocean. Some sponge species even live in fresh water!
Sea sponges spend their lives attached to something. This usually includes shell beds, coral, rock walls, or just plan ocean rocks. Sponges will attach themselves to anything on the ocean floor that is hard and can support them. A couple sponges do not attach to anything, but that is the exception not the rule.
Sponges are not one sex, but rather both as needed. This is called a hermaphrodite and it allows the sponge to fertilize eggs. When the baby sponges are released through the oscula they float in the water for several days. They look like plankton, but they attach themselves to the first hard surface they find. Then, they begin growing to become adult size sponges.
The life span of a sponge can be very short or quite long. For example, some sponges live only a few months while others live up to 20 years or longer! It is interesting; too, that a sponge can regenerate itself when it is injured or the food supply diminishes. From a very small fragment of the original sponge an entire new sponge may grow. The holes on the outer portion of the sponge are the ostia and there are larger pores internally that are the oscula. Flagellum that line the oscula force water in and out of the sponge, which brings food in and then removes waste.
Sponges are filter feeders, which simply means they filter their food. Foods like plankton, bacteria, and other organic particles. There are all kinds of sponges and they are many different colors. There are also many different sizes and shapes. Some sponges are long and thin while there are others that are large on the bottom and thin at the top. Some even look like fans.