The Harp Sponge: an extraordinary new species of carnivorous sponge

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Lonny Lundsten, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Welton Lee, California Academy of Sciences

Bill Austin, Khoyatan Marine Laboratory

Henry Reiswig, University of Victoria


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.


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

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