New Species Alert! Carnivorous, Deep-Sea Sponge Discovered

Written by on November 8, 2012 in Marine Life

Scientists have recently discovered a new carnivorous sponge, Chondrocladia lyra–the harp sponge.

It got the name “harp sponge” because its basic structure resembles a harp.  It is found off the coast of California between 3,300 and 3,500 meters (10,800-11,500 feet) below the surface.

It is a unique discovery, because most sponges are filter feeders–they strain bacteria and other small pieces of organic material from the seawater through filters in their bodies.  The harp sponge, however, actually captures tiny crustaceans that get swept past its branches with barbed hooks that cover its limbs.  Once it captures its prey, it covers the animal in a thin membrane and slowly digests it.

Using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), Tiburon and Doc Ricketts, from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) scientists were able to collect two sponges and get video footage of ten more.

You can see some of the footage in the video below, from MBARI’s YouTube channel:

Scientists only learned less than 20 years ago that sponges could be carnivorous.  Dozens of carnivorous sponges have been discovered since then.

To learn more:

Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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