Bleached sea sponge leaves scientists in New Zealand baffled
For the first time in the world, scientists from Victoria University of Wellington have discovered thousands of bleached sea sponges in New Zealand waters. The extreme temperature changes have caused the sponges to lose their rich, chocolate brown colour. The scientists found bleached sponges at more than a dozen sites, including Breaksea Sound in the Bay of Plenty and Doubtful Sound in Fiordland. Marine biology professor James Bell estimates that up to 95% of the sponges were bleached, and hundreds of thousands were affected.
Glass sponges lack elasticity
Known as demosponges, glass sponges are distinct from silicon-spicule sponges. Their four-point silicate spicules are the hallmark of this group, which can be found in oceans throughout the world, mostly in the Northern Pacific and Antarctica. Although relatively rare, glass sponges are found in deep sea environments. Because of their high elasticity, they are able to withstand the pressures of a powerful underwater current.
The distribution of glass sponges is thought to be largely driven by the presence of high concentrations of dissolved silica in cold, dark water. The depth at which they are found coincides with the peak abundance of gelatinous plankton. This coincidence may reflect an abundance of food in the surrounding waters. However, further research is needed to fully understand the ecology of glass sponges.
These two sponges have no organs or tissues. They are made up of a mass of individual cells that are held together by an amorphous gelatinous substance called mesohyl. Sponges vary in shape, size and number. They are used to filter water and provide habitat for a variety of reef denizens.
The discovery of collagen in glass sponges was made in 2010 and has been used in the production of biosilica materials. But these materials are only available in very limited quantities. So, researchers have developed a new concept of biosilica materials that may help them replace glass sponge collagen. And this breakthrough has opened new doors in biomedicine. It will lead to the production of more durable biosilica-based materials.
These two sponges are a group of species of marine organisms that belong to the Porifera family. Their skeletons are made up of siliceous spicules that lack elasticity. They contain protein called spongin. The purpose of this study was to characterize four sponge species collected in the waters around GAPkASSeada Island in Turkey. The characterizations were performed using SEM/EDX, ATR-FTIR, and small angle x-ray scattering.
In the past, scientists have attempted to determine the chemical composition of spongin and their elasticity. But their findings have been inconsistent, largely because of the insufficiently effective analytical methods and different species of sponges. Regardless of the differences, there is one common factor: glass sponges are generally a poor match for a sponge’s elasticity.
They contain no toxic chemicals
Bleached sea sponges found in New Zealand waters appear to contain absolutely no toxic chemicals. In fact, these sponges may have therapeutic properties. Scientists have isolated bioactive compounds in these sponges, including Peloruside A. Moreover, the discovery of this compound could push for more development of commercial sponge farming.
Sea sponges are not plants, but multi-celled animals. They lack a central nervous system, a mouth, and any other organs. Instead, their digestive system and circulatory system are supported by the water flowing through their pores. Despite their lack of organs and specialized cells, they are capable of filtering water and absorbing small organisms. The use of toxins is a defensive mechanism.
Moreover, sustainable sponges are free from toxic chemicals. They have no bleaching agent. Moreover, the sponges grown in New Zealand waters are non-toxic. They are produced on organic farms, which in its purest form have no harmful chemicals. These sponges are grown from small cuttings, which are attached to floating lines.
In addition to that, the sea sponges are left to grow for a minimum of two years before being harvested.
Toxic chemicals aren’t the only source of toxicity in sponges. In fact, they play an important role in the coral reef ecosystem. They remove 95% of bacteria and 90 percent of dissolved organic carbon from the water, as well as converting suspended particles into food for other animals. And, they’re not just useful for science – their presence in the sea is also beneficial for the habitats of sea urchins and shrimp.
They last longer than bleached sponges
A recent report by scientists from Victoria University of Wellington indicates that New Zealand’s sea sponges are suffering from an unusually high amount of bleaching. The sea sponges in Fiordland have been suffering from a heatwave, causing some to perish completely. While the cause is still unclear, researchers have noted that the sudden occurrence of bleaching is alarming. The sponges’ mortality rates are typically longer than that of corals.
Although scientists don’t yet have a definitive direct answer to why sponges are bleaching, they do know that warming water temperatures may be a factor. They plan to observe sponges later this month to learn if warmer water is affecting their health. They’ll also look at the deteriorating condition of the sponges. The bleached ones, however, were not very healthy.
Compared to the bleached sponges, Sustainable Sponges are softer and more durable than their counterparts. They also have natural antibacterial and antifungal properties, which will prevent the growth of mold, mildew and bacteria.
The microbial community of R. odorabile was largely conserved throughout the experiment. Proteobacteria, Poribacteria, and SAUL were the dominant taxa. While the nutrient/temperature treatments were unimportant, the two Gemmatimonadetes OTUs accounted for the differences. Moreover, the OTUs of R. odorabile were more resistant to high seawater temperatures than those of the healthy R. odorabile.
They may come back to life
Researchers have observed a correlation between severe temperature increases and the bleaching of sea sponges. They are still investigating the cause and spread of the bleaching. They will return to the site later this month to carry out further studies. Bleached sea sponges could regain their colour and life. The researchers will return to the site to determine if this has been the case.
In the meantime, they have made some encouraging discoveries.
The discovery of the unusual condition has shocked marine ecologists and researchers in New Zealand. The discovery has led them to suspect that bleaching of sea sponges is widespread and may have occurred quickly. They have checked more than a dozen sites in Fiordland’s Breaksea Sound. Those spots have seen up to 95 percent of the sea sponges bleached. A marine ecologist at Victoria University of Wellington, Dr Rebecca McLeod, said the discovery was a startling find.
Researchers believe that an bleached sea sponge found in New Zealand waters could come back to life. These sponges used to be abundant in western Atlantic waters, but their abundance has decreased in recent years. Scientists are still studying how the bleaching process works and how it affects native species. But they are already predicting that more bleached sea sponges will be returned to life soon.
For more information on this subject check out this video
Provided by Antonio Westley
Disclaimer: This article is meant to be seen as an overview of this subject and not a reflection of viewpoints or opinions as nothing is definitive. So, make sure to do your research and feel free to use this information at your own discretion.