A consortium of scientists from the EU, the US and Canada have recently embarked on a deep-sea sponge research voyage to find out what role they might play in recycling the ocean’s waste.
For three weeks, G.O.Sars, one of the most advanced research vessels of its kind, took the team of scientists through western fjords of Norway and up into the Arctic Circle.
Oceans cover over 70% of the earth’s surface, and sponges have been living in them for over half a billion years. By filtering sea water through their pores, these primitive animals recycle waste and produce valuable nutrients for other marine organisms.
Most sponges are filter feeders, and they wait for bacteria or small single-celled organisms to float past them at the bottom of the ocean. An underwater robot was used to collect sponges from several kilometres down in the Arctic seas. This expedition has discovered several new sponge species. Roughly 8,000 sponge species are known to exist, ranging from a few centimetres to more than a metre in size.