What recent advances in the study of the biology of sponges have been made? Casey Sullivan, Connor Siegel, Natalie Minor & Stefani Williams
Carnivorous Sponges!!! Scientists have recently discovered a highly adapted deep-sea sponge, in which the aquiferous system is non-existent, but which have a sticky outer surface with which small prey animals are capturedThe space between canals and chambers is filled with a collagenous matrix, called the mesohyl, which harbors individual cells, supporting fibers, and inorganic structures of the skeleton
Harp Sponge • Carnivorous • has velcro-like barbs covering its long branches to collect prey (mostly crustaceans) • found in the deep sea • have a root like structure which clings to the soft sediment • thought to have evolved to the harp-like structure to increase surface area
Bacteria living on sponges • 13 sponge specimens from the Irciniidae family were studied and found to have over 279 isolates on them • This suggests that sponges are one of the most microbial-permissive groups in the animal phyla • The relationship between bacteria and sponges leads the scientists to believe that sponges have high biotechnological potential (meaning that they can be used in manufacturing or industrial situations)
New Sponge Fossils • Fossils dating 640-650 million years found in S. Australia • Oldest fossils left by primitive early animals • Could push existence of animal life back 90 million years • Previously believed that first animal life emerged after Snowball Earth ice age • Brings up question of how relatives of reef-dwelling sponges survived the Snowball Earth • Previously the oldest fossils dated around 550 million years ago
New Drug Discovery Drs. Peter McCarthy and Amy Wright, senior research scientists in the Division of Biomedical Research, isolated compounds from the sponge Plakinistrella, commonly found in 25 feet of water in the seas off the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. The compounds comprise a completely new class of antifungal agents called cyclic peroxy acids, and in laboratory tests have been shown to kill two human pathogens; Candida albicans, which causes skin infections and thrush and can endanger the lives of AIDS patients, and Aspergillus fumigatus, which causes dangerous lung infections in people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy.
References • http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-205_162-57547833/strange-meat-eating-sea-sponge-found-in-deep-ocean • http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/10/001022201812.htm/ • http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1304061/Ancient-sea-sponge-fossils-push-existence-animal-life-90million-years.html • Esteves, Ana I.S.; Hardoim, Cristiane C.P.; Xavier, Joana R.; Goncalves, Jorge M.S & Costa, Rodrigo. (2013). Molecular richness and biotechnological potential of bacteria cultured from Irciniidae sponges in north-east Atlantic. FEMS Microbiology, 85: 519-536. doi: 10.1111/1574-6941.12140