#11 Euplectella sp (Phylum: Porifera, Class: Hexactenellida, Family: Euplectellidae)
[This Post is brought to you by Amanda Kahn a graduate student at Moss Landing Marine Labs with an inordinate fondness of sponges. You can catch her regular posts at the very cool MLML graduate student blog.}
Euplectella sponges mostly live on the abyssal plain – a flat, monotonous landscape of mud, mud, and more mud. Running transects across the abyssal plain is about as exciting as driving across Nevada…until you run across Euplectella. This sponge’s skeleton is made of tiny glass rods that are organized together into a framework rivaled by that of skyscrapers. That is pretty remarkable, considering that sponges don’t have brains… Some architects study sponge structures to try to figure out how to build stronger skyscrapers! The rods in the skeleton (called spicules) are special for another reason: they can conduct light, just like fiber optic cables. When we make fiber optic cables, we have to use really high temperatures and a lot of specialized conditions. When sponges make fiber optic cables, they use seawater. That’s it.
As if those reasons aren’t enough for Euplectella to make it in the top 27, this sponge has some resident shrimp species that call it home. Shrimps in the genus Spongicola move into Euplectella sponges once they are ready to mate, and are trapped inside of the sponge for the rest of their lives. In Japan, it was common to give Euplectella as a wedding gift, as a symbol of the two shrimp being united (or imprisoned, for you cynics out there) for the rest of their lives. For this romantic reason, Euplectella is also called Venus’s Flower Basket. *sigh*
Recap: Euplectella is awesome because it has no brain, but builds structures that are more complex than skyscrapers. It creates fiber optic cables better than we do, and it’s the deep sea’s symbol of love.
To see a picture of the shrimp inside of Euplectella, check out this website. Photo credits: Joanna Aizenberg, Bell Laboratories and Wikimedia Commons.
UPDATE: Amanda wrote up a some great answers to questions about sponges, including how they feed, if they have a sort of central nervous system and whether they have skin.
- #27: Brachiopods
- #26: Pig Butt Worm
- #25: Crawling Crinoids
- #24: Tube Worms
- #23: Dumbo Octopus
- #22: Xenophyophores
- #21: Phronima
- #20: Swimming Sea Cucumbers
- #19: Black Devil Anglerfish
- #18: Venus Fly-trap Anemone
- #17: Tripod fish, Bathypterois
- #16: Chaunax, the red-eyed gaper
- #15: Spookfish, Rhinochimaera pacifica
- #14: Alviniconcha hessleri, the hairy vent snail
- #13: Deep Sea Corals
- #12: Yeti Crab