Wednesday 7 November 2012

Harp Sponge

Image: MBARI
Chondrocladia lyra
Isn't it lovely? Among all the gnashing teeth and wobbling flab of the deep sea is a beautiful harp! A beautiful, meat-eating harp.

Yup. The Harp Sponge is a carnivore. Recently discovered by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Insiitute, they lie in wait at depths of some 3,500 metres (11,500 ft), looking all elegant and innocent. Each one has up to six vanes, which look like branches held up just above the ground. Upon these are numerous thin columns of sex and murder.

If you look closely at the columns, you can see that they're covered in tiny spikes and hooks. Just like the related Ping-pong Tree Sponge, these act like velcro to snag and trap small, drifting crustaceans. Next, a thin membrane smothers the body and the Harp Sponge can digest its catch.
Image: MBARI
At the top of the columns is a... blob? I'm afraid they're very much not Doric, Ionic or Corinthian. They're carnal, instead. Those blobs produce packets of sperm. When the time is right, the sperm is released so that other Harps can capture it in a manner similar to how they catch their food. Eggs can then develop on the columns.

So! Clearly the most sinful harp the world has ever seen. You don't want to be running your delicate fingers over those spiky strings. And who knows what kind of stuff you'd get all over your hands?


TexWisGirl said...

funky! i like it!

Joseph JG said...

Do people play funk on harps?

Anonymous said...

I design jewelry and this reminds me of some funky industrial type piece! Wow, what a find!!!

Joseph JG said...

It's funny how it looks like all sorts of things, but it doesn't look anything like a sponge!

Unknown said...

This is really cool. Notice in the video that the horizontal arms on the bottom are perpendicular to the current, so increase the chance of catching food (or sperms floating by).

Joseph JG said...

I didn't notice that! It makes sense, of course. Those ones with 5 and 6 branches all spread out are odd though, I wonder how that works in the current?