Science

World’s Largest Sponge Discovered

By Aunindita Bhatia , May 28, 2016 05:40 AM EDT

ast year, a team of researchers went on a deep-sea expedition in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii, USA, and found a hitherto-undiscovered sea sponge of enormous proportions on the ocean floor.

A study regarding the sponge was recently published in the Marine Biodiversity journal that confirmed that this is the largest known sponge in the world.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) led the expedition, originally intended to find deep-water corals and sponges, as well as the subsequent research into the surprising discovery. The published findings identified the species as "belonging to the Hexactinellid family Rossellidae and subfamily Lanuginellinae." The sponge, with a length of 12 feet and a width of 7 feet, surpasses the largest recorded sponge to date, which measured around 11 feet by 3 feet, and was found off the western coast of Canada in the 19th century.

Sponges are a member of the animal kingdom, although many find this hard to believe owing to their inanimate nature. They are also one of the oldest creatures on Earth and are considered to be an important part of marine ecosystems.

Scientists estimate this sponge to be around 1,000 years old, making it possibly the oldest living animal on Earth. Its images were captured by two Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) in one of the world's largest and most pristine marine environments. The latter could be the reason for the longevity of the sponge in question, as sponges are creatures that need a quiet and stable environment to grow. Apparently, it has been nice and quiet where this sponge took up residence. It is not easy to determine their age as they, unlike trees, do not have rings that reveal their age. However this finding was made possible by the known occurrence of corals at that depth of the ocean, which were a few thousand years old. 

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