Apr 22, 2014 I Paul Seaburn

Beware of the Killer Sponges

If you’re looking for an excuse to avoid washing dishes, news of the discovery of meat-eating killer sponges might do the trick. Biologists have recently discovered four new species of these carnivorous sponges.

As reported in the journal Zootaxa, there are about 8,500 different species of sponges and, until this latest discovery, just seven were known to use microscopic hooks located at the ends of tiny hairs on branch-like appendages to capture prey, mostly amphipods and smaller deep-dwelling crustaceans. They then slowly break down the meat with enzymes and absorb the nutrients.

amphipods 570x321
These amphipods would make a tasty killer sponge dinner

While looking at video taken by robotic subs in 1,800-foot waters in the northeastern Pacific near the California coast, Lonny Lundsten, a biologist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) saw four sponges he didn’t recognize. Using a robot to bring up samples, he determined they were new species of carnivorous sponges which were evetually named Asbestopluma monticola, Asbestopluma rickettsi, Cladorhiza caillieti, and Cladorhiza evae.

All other sponges wave choanocyte cells which have tiny tails that create currents to pull in bacteria and single-celled organisms from the surrounding water. Lacking the choanocytes, meat-eaters live near undersea volcanoes and deep-sea vents which attract food to the warm areas and into their hooks. The vents also breed bacteria which these sponges can feed on. Asbestopluma rickettsi, which was found off the coast of Southern California, eats clams and tubeworms.


Lundstrum wasn’t surprised to find these new sponges.

It just goes to show how little we know about life at the bottom of the ocean. It’s the largest habitat on the planet, and we’re still discovering new species all the time.

What we do know is that these new species are terrible for washing dishes, so you’ll have to find another excuse.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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