Sponges are harmless cool creatures – at least that’s what we thought until the discovery of some carnivorous sponges. Scientists have discovered many of these flesh eating sponges but in 2012 they found an incredibly interesting species of carnivorous sponge known as Chondrocladia lyra. Now that’s one hell of a fancy science name but it also has a name that we non-scientific laymen love. Popular by the name Harp Sponge, this is one really extraordinary and incredibly beautiful creature. So, let us learn 15 interesting harp sponge facts can find out what they eat, where they live and how they reproduce. Ready?

Interesting Harp Sponge Facts: 1-7

1. It is really not cool to learn that a sponge can actually hunt but yes, there are many carnivorous sponge species and the harp sponge is one of them. The harp sponge lives in deep sea. They hangout at a depth of 10,879 feet to 11,152 feet.

2. This sponge species was first discovered off the coast of California using a deep sea robot. The science guys who discovered the species were Lonny Lundsten, William C. Austin, Henry M. Reiswig and Welton L. Lee.

3. The sponge is named as harp sponge because of its typical lyre or harp like shape. The sponge is actually a grounded creature. Grounded in the sense that they are fixed in a single place and don’t really roam around. There is again a science term for this and the word is ‘sessile’.

4. The sponge has a root-like structure known as rhizoid. It uses the rhizoid to anchor itself to the soft seabed.

5. From top of the rhizoid, long stem-like structures fan out horizontally. These structures are known as vanes. The number of vanes can be 1 to 6. In case there are more than two vanes, they are spread out at equal distance from the center.

6. Vertically protruding out from the vanes are branches. These branches are what give the sponge its typical harp-like shape.

7. While the branches look very smooth, beautiful and gentle, they are the actual killers. The branches are covered by velcro-like tiny hooks that do all the nasty stuff.

Interesting Harp Sponge Facts: 8-15

8. The hooks on the branches snare prey as they drift past. The captured prey is immediately surrounded by a digestive membrane and the harp sponge slowly starts digesting the prey. The harp sponge feasts on small crustaceans and even very small fish.

9. What makes the harp sponge so magnificently beautiful are the tiny white balls that are present on top of the branches. These tiny terminal globules actually play a very major role in the reproduction process of the sponge.

10. While those small globules may look like pure fashion statement, they are far more than that. These globules are filled with packets of spermatophores.

11. The sponge releases the spermatophores in water which then flow along with the water current. A nearly harp sponge captures the sperms in the egg development sites of the vertical branches and when the eggs fertilize, the egg development sites swell up.

12. Scientists believe that the harp sponge actually evolved into this shape so that the surface area exposed to prevailing currents can be maximized.

13. The increased surface area does not only help the sponge to become a very efficient killer in deep sea but also helps to capture sperm very effectively for the purpose of reproduction.

14. These harp sponges typically grow up to a length of 1.2 feet or 37 cm but the largest specimen observed till date is 60 cm in length.

15. The harp sponge is a classic example of how animals must adapt in inhospitable deep sea environments in order to survive.

Source: 1, 2, 3, 4

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