Sponge love

by Blair
Publish date
14 February 2013
Comments (7)

Love is in the ocean not in the air this Valentine’s Day. Just ask this romantic heart-shaped sponge.

red sponge Heart-shaped sponge just below the surface at Flinders. And yes, that shape is the live animal, no Photoshop, just a quirky growth form.
Image: © John Gaskell

Imagine spending Valentine's Day dinner sifting through a mouthful of muddy silt. You're joined by several friends nearby to hug or hold hands with, but the only kiss on offer is from a fish that tries to eat you. And sex after dinner? Not tonight, unless you happen to be skilful enough to catch a comrade's passing sperm in the water. That's the life for many a sponge.

The photographer at the heart of the sponge image is John Gaskell. He’s a local diver, consultant and author of the popular local marine guide Beneath Our Bay. He also collaborates with Reef Watch to spread word on our interesting marine life. He caught this one at Flinders last week truly romancing the reef as it grows.

“Maybe the sponges are trying to tell us something,” Gaskell told Reef Watch, “reduce effluent or love our underwater reefs more”.

Keeping in the spirit of sponge love, Museum Victoria is producing Sponges, the next book in the science field guide series. Written by local expert Lisa Goudie, it celebrates not only sexual and asexual reproduction in sponges (Phylum Porifera), but also the diversity of species in Victorian waters and their amazing shapes and colours.

6 different sponges Diversity of shape and colour of sponges in Victorian waters.
Image: Mark Norman and Julian Finn

The non-love sponge information:

Household sponges were once made of skeletal remains of true sponges from the ocean, although modern times replace the natural form with synthetic products. Not all sponges are soft; some are prickly, crumbly or slimy. Most species are marine, but a few live in freshwater. Sponges are not colonies of individual animals, but rather collections of cells that have specialised functions. Fossils indicate that this animal group has existed for at least 600 million years. They are some of the longest-lived animals in the world, with individuals of a tropical species being estimated at age of 2000 years. Other species are short lived and die back each year.


 Museum Victoria Science books 

 Sponges on the Port Phillip Bay Marine Life website

Comments (7)

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Johnny 14 February, 2013 11:26
Hey Blair, I think you're missing the link between those interested in Valentines Day and sponges, neither have a brain or central nervous system! Or maybe I'm just unlucky in love, still waiting!!!!
Blair 14 February, 2013 14:18
Interesting comparison Johnny! What they lack, well for sponges at least, they sure compensate for in their expert chemical defense systems, generosity in temporarily housing small species such as crustaceans, and incredible diversity - over 8000 species worldwide.
Johnny 15 February, 2013 09:22
Hmmmmm.........well, from my experience, they have a robust defense system, are not always generous with their housing and there is only one species to choose from!! Btw, if you turn that photo of the sponge upside down it looks like a bum!!!!
Lauren 14 February, 2013 13:52
That sponge was just invented to sell cards.
Af 14 February, 2013 19:27
What a brilliant first paragraph. That needs to go on a card. Something for the gift shop maybe?
Alex 15 February, 2013 09:17
Haha, sponge love
Matthew 18 February, 2013 18:49
Great story Blair, which all begs the question why are they classified as animals and not plants?
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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.