Sponges — simple aquatic animals through dense, yet porous, skeletons — room highly adjusted to your environments.

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A variety of sponges dot the seascape that Flower Garden financial institutions National marine Sanctuary. From ring to encrusting come branching, the colors and also textures of sponges include to the intricacy of the reef. Credit: G.P. Schmahl


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Sponges are discovered in a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes and also are regularly mistaken for plants. Scientists believe that their differed colorations may defend them native the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.


Sponges have actually been roughly for a very long time, with certain varieties having a fossil document that dates ago approximately 600 million years to the faster (Precambrian) duration of earth’s history. The about 8,550 living sponge varieties are scientifically divide in the phylum Porifera, i beg your pardon is made up of four unique classes: the Demospongiae (the many diverse, comprise 90 percent of all living sponges), Hexactinellida (the rarely glass sponges), Calcarea (calcareous sponges), and Homoscleromorpha (the rarest and simplest class, only newly recognized, with around 117 species).

While sponges, choose corals, space immobile aquatic invertebrates, they are otherwise totally different biology with unique anatomy, feeding methods, and reproductive processes. The main differences are:

Corals space complex, many-celled organisms. Sponges room very straightforward creatures through no tissues.All corals call for saltwater come survive. While many sponges are discovered in the ocean, numerous species are likewise found in fresh water and estuaries.

Regardless of this differences, sponges are necessary inhabitants that coral reef ecosystems. A diverse sponge populace can influence water quality on the reef together the sponges filter water, collection bacteria, and process carbon, nitrogen, and also phosphorus. In nutrient-depleted coral reefs, some sponge types are believed to do carbon biologically accessible by excreting a type of “sponge poop” that other organisms feed on, in order to fueling efficiency throughout the ecosystem. In this way, sponges safeguard the reef against extreme fluctuations in nutrient density, temperature, and light, services the survival of various other reef organisms.

A sponge’s skeletal form adapts well to its certain habitat, enabling it to live top top hard, rocky surfaces or soft sediments such as sand and also mud. Part sponges even attach themselves to floating debris! rarely are they found totally free-floating.

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As water filters v a sponge’s porous exterior, the sponge gains some motion, obtain food and also oxygen, and dispels waste. Within the sponge, tiny hairlike structures dubbed flagella produce currents to filter bacteria the end of the sponge’s cells and also trap food in ~ them. Their strong skeletal structures assist sponges withstand the high volume the water that flows with them each day.