An extraordinary carnivorous sea sponge shaped like a harp has been spotted in deep ocean waters off California’s Monterey Bay this year. Although not first time discovered, harp sponge is so rarely seen and little known. We would like to share with you some interesting facts about this creature.
The harp sponge (Chondrocladia lyra) is found at depths between 10,800–11,500 feet. They are anchored to the sea floor sediments with root-like structures called rhizoids. The creature is named the harp sponge because its basic structure, a vane, is shaped like a harp or lyre. Each vane supports a series of upright, equally spaced branches that are covered with fine filaments. The sponge uses the filaments to capture tiny crustaceans as prey. It covers its prey with a thin membrane then, slowly digests them. The cold and dark deep seafloor can be a very inhospitable place and resources are often scarce. The harp sponge is a great example of adaptations.
It has been less than twenty years since scientists first discovered that sponges could be carnivores. Since then, marine biologists have found dozens of new carnivorous species. However, until today only less than 10% of sea floor has been explored by human beings so it’s likely that many new marine species have yet to be encountered and will be in the near future.
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