A megasponge of 12 feet was discovered in Hawaii, making it world’s largest known sponge. The creature was found within the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, the largest protected conservation area on Earth. The finding was published on May 24 in Marine Biodiversity journal.
Researchers came across the giant sponge during a deep-sea expedition which took place last year. However, their finding was not released until last week. This was because of the lengthy process of measuring the 12 foot (3.5 meters) by 7 foot (2.1 meters) marine creature, which involved remote underwater cameras.
The megasponge of 12 feet was discovered during a 69-day expedition to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and it was spotted with the help of a remotely operated vehicle system. The expedition went up to 7,000 feet down in deep, pristine waters. After projecting two parallel laser beams onto the sponge and capturing HD images of it, the team used ImageJ image analysis software to measure its size.
According to researchers, it’s unusually large size is might be due to the fact that it is capable of living for thousands of years. Previously, the biggest known sponges came from the Aphrocallistes vastus species and measured approximately 11 feet (3.4 meters) in length and 4 feet (1.1 meters) in height.
This megasponge has yet another reason to be so special, as its species has yet to be determined. It might be a lone one.
Researchers have, however, found another specimen of what they believe to be the same species. The specimen belongs to the hexactinellid family Rossellidae and subfamily Lanuginellinae. Besides the two specimens which might be related, the team has not encountered other individuals of the same non-reef-building species.
There isn’t much information about sponges’ lifespan, but large sponges have been estimated to live for up to 2,300 years, which means that the giant sponge could be of same age, if not greater.
This discovery highlights the value of deep-diving technologies in revealing parts of the oceans which have yet to be explored. Sponges filter seawater, thus playing a significant role in preserving the ecosystem. Discoveries such as this one point at the necessity of exploring these deep waters. And without the continuing development of technology, it would be impossible.
IMAGE SOURCE: DeviantART