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Harp sponge: Carnivorous 'Velcro-like' sponge discovered in deep sea off California coast

The newly discovered carnivorous
The newly discovered carnivorous "harp sponge."
Screenshot via MBARI video

Candelabra-shaped and carnivorous, a newly discovered sea creature — the "harp sponge" — has been found clinging to the ocean floor off Monterey Bay. 

Armed with "Velcro-like barbed hooks," the sponge — first observed via remote vehicle by a Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) team in 2000 — lives about two miles under the sea and feeds on crustaceans, reports Our Amazing Planet

Velcro-like barbed hooks cover the sponge's branching limbs, snaring crustaceans as they are swept into its branches by deep-sea currents. Once the harp sponge has its meal, it envelops the animal in a thin membrane, and then slowly begins to digest its prey.

Two sponges were collected off the coast of California by researchers; 10 others were filmed. The largest observed specimen was about 14 inches tall, and the sponges varied in structure. Scientists believe the sponge evolved a multi-pronged shape, in part, to cover more food-grabbing surface area.

Researchers published their findings on the life cycle of "Chondrocladia lyra" in the Oct. 18 issue of Invertebrate Biology. There, you can learn all about "spermatophores," "branch swellings" and the secret sex life of sponges.



[h/t Discovery News]