Sea sponges don’t move. At least, that’s what a lot of people used to think about these aquatic invertebrates. But a new study has upended this assumption, and pushed and prodded scientific thought into a new direction. In 2016, a team of scientists aboard the RV Polarstern, a German research icebreaker, visited Langseth Ridge, an ice-covered seamount in the Arctic Ocean, a few hundred miles from the North Pole. The area was covered in large sea sponges, despite having lower productivity and nutrient fluxes than other sea sponge grounds in the North Atlantic Ocean. The main species in the region were identified as Geodia parva, G. hentscheli, and Stelletta rhaphidiophora. But the abundance of sponges wasn’t the biggest surprise. Underwater imagery showed trails of spicules — structural, skeleton-like spikes that sponges can shed — meandering along the seafloor. It looked as if the sea sponges were moving. These spicule trails were visible in about 70% of the images taken of the sea sponges, according to a paper recently published in Current Biology. Figure showing typical sponge spicule trails. Image by AWI OFOBS Team, PS101, Morganti et al/ “I was surprised, but it was very clear,” study co-author Autun Purser, a marine ecologist at the Alfred Wegener Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Germany, told Mongabay in an interview. “What we didn’t know straight away was wherever these trails were all pointing downhill or something like that, as if the sponge had slipped downhill.” The team analyzed the seafloor and found…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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