The Harp Sponge: an extraordinary new species of carnivorous sponge

Lonny Lundsten, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Welton Lee, California Academy of Sciences

Bill Austin, Khoyatan Marine Laboratory

Henry Reiswig, University of Victoria

 

 

 

Abstract

In this video we describe a new species of carnivorous sponge, Chondrocladia lyra from the deep-sea off California. It is called the harp sponge because its basic structure, called a vane, is shaped like a harp. Each vane consists of a horizontal branch supporting several parallel, vertical branches. The harp sponge's unusual shape and exposure to currents may also help it to feed and reproduce more effectively. Clinging with root-like "rhizoids" to the soft, muddy sediment, the harp sponge captures tiny animals that are swept into its branches by deep-sea currents. Typically, sponges feed by straining bacteria and bits of organic material from the seawater they filter through their bodies. However, harp sponges snare their prey—tiny crustaceans—with barbed hooks that cover the sponge's branching limbs. Once the harp sponge has its prey in its clutches, it slowly begins to digest it.

 

Publication

Lee, W. L., Reiswig, H. M., Austin, W. C. and Lundsten, L. (2012), An extraordinary new carnivorous sponge, Chondrocladia lyra, in the new subgenus Symmetrocladia (Demospongiae, Cladorhizidae), from off of northern California, USA. Invertebrate Biology, 131: 259–284. doi: 10.1111/ivb.12001

Click here to access the full publication

 

Learn More

Follow Lonny Lundsten's research on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute website: www.mbari.org

By the Numbers

37,795 students in 50 US states, the US Virgin Islands, and 21 countries participated as judges in the 2015 Ocean 180 Video Challenge.

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