A new species of carnivorous sponge has been found living at a depth of 10,000' off the coast of California.
Scientists from the Monterey Bay Research Institute (MBARI) discovered the recently described Harp sponge (Chondrocladia lyra) — so called because its basic structure resembles like a harp or lyre.
This predator captures tiny animals that are swept into its branches by deep-sea currents, using Velcro-like hooks that cover its branching limbs. Then it envelops its prey in a thin membrane before slowly beginning to digest it.
Scientists believe the Harp sponge has evolved its elaborate shape in order to increase the surface area it exposes to currents, much like sea fan corals.
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More info: Lee, W. L., Reiswig, H. M., Austin, W. C. and Lundsten, L. (2012), An extraordinary new carnivorous sponge, Chondrocladia lyra, in the new subgenus Symmetrocladia (Demospongiae, Cladorhizidae), from off of northern California, USA. Invertebrate Biology. doi: 10.1111/ivb.12001
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