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Sponges Build Oxygen in Ocean "Oasis" on Reef Life Projects!

Updated: Dec 30, 2022

Healthy and Biodiverse Sponge Communities on IntelliReefs UN Endorsed Project 112-- Sint Maarten Caribbean Heathy Reefs = Feeding Fish, to Sharks to Turtles

Who Cares about Healthy Reef Communities?? WE DO!! Our Ocean Customers:


Sponges are not casual components of the fauna in coral reefs worldwide. From fringing coral reefs, atolls, and patch reefs, to deeper reef escarpments, reef walls, or mesophotic reefs (50-150 m deep), sponges surpass any animal phyla in terms of species richness and living biomass in most tropical coral reefs (Diaz and Rützler, 2001; Reed et al., 2018). In the Caribbean, the number of different sponge species at any reef ranges from 50-300 species, and a large difference on species composition can be found among reefs within “15 km” (Hooper, 2018).

Figure 2. An IntelliReef prototype in Sint. Martin after 20 months underwater. The massive ramose salmon sponge, Desmapsanma anchorata, cradling a recruit of a fire coral Millepora species. Photo by: The Nature Foundation

Just like the ones in your kitchen sink, ocean sponges get dirty fast. Detritus in the water around them can clog their complex filtration system, forcing the creatures to clean themselves out. How exactly sponges do this has long remained a mystery, however.

Using high-definition, time-lapse videos of marine sponges Aplysina archeri and Chelonaplysilla sp., researchers were able to capture each step of a single sneeze (see video, above), which can take 20 to 50 minutes from start to finish, they report today in Current Biology. The sponge coats unwanted detritus and waste with mucus and sends the coated particles out through small pores in its body called ostia. The glittering mucus globules travel along “highways” on the sponge’s surface, eventually meeting with particles from other highways at mucus “junctions” to form silklike clumps. These clumps grow larger and larger until the sponge eventually contracts, sneezing them out into the water. The sponge then relaxes and the process begins anew.

Other scientists had observed sponges sneezing by pushing water through their ostia before, but no one had confirmed the behavior was a mode of self-cleaning until now. The researchers can’t yet tell what mechanism causes the mucus to travel along these highways. They suspect it’s entirely different from the ones used for mucus transport in humans and other animals.

The mucus may be trash to the sponge, but it’s treasure to nearby fish and other reef-dwelling organisms. The scientists witnessed fish snacking on the sponge’s ejected mucus, suggesting it could be an important food source in marine ecosystems. Gesundheit!

As the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration take off, IntelliReefs US and Canadian offices are ramping up to answer the global call for innovative ocean solutions. Earlier this year, IntelliReefs submitted a "Decade Action" for the Ocean Decade, detailing the expansion of their large research and coral reef restoration project in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten with the local Nature Foundation. The team received news this week that IntelliReefs' Decade Action has been officially endorsed by the UN in a letter from the Executive Secretary of IOC-UNESCO.

1 Comment

This is one of the best posts ever

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