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Marine Biology: Even a Sponge Can “Sneeze”

Firmly anchored to the sea floor, sponges absorb large amounts of water to filter food. During this process, particles can end up in the sponge, clogging the animal’s duct system or making it unsuitable for food. Sponges have to get rid of these foreign substances and regulate the situation as humans do – by sneezing.

Jasper de Guege Manal University of Amsterdam He and his team are currently describing the mechanism in the journal Current Biology. “Our data shows that sneezing is an adaptation of the sponge, and it is designed to remain clean,” Gueg said in a statement. study “She’s a sponge, she can’t go anywhere else when the water around her gets very dirty,” he asserts. Sneezing seems to be the best way to get rid of foreign matter.

Slime flows against the current

Although the mechanism is comparable to human sneezing, biologists cannot yet determine exactly how the process works. “To be clear, sponges don’t sneeze like humans. It takes about half an hour to complete a sneeze, Goji explains.

Sponge while “sneezing” in slow motion

Particles and foreign matter are carried out with the help of mucus. However, not through the sponge’s flow holes, as expected, but through the flow hole, that is, opposite the direction of the actual water flow. The approximately thirty minute contraction by which animals release “mucus” into their environment is the final point in a cycle that lasts several hours. The researchers would like to show in other studies how animals transport mucus out, because there are hardly any cilia in the mucus-containing ducts.

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Many scientists believe that sponges are very simple creatures. But we were more and more surprised by the flexibility with which they adapt to their environment. “”Sponge sneeze” also has an important meaning for their environment. Because other organisms use expelled mucus as a food source. This is done, for example, by small worms or krill that live on and within the sponge .

To date, biologists have been able to observe this phenomenon in two types of sponges. They suspect that in addition to species known as chimney sponges and the genus Chelonaplysilla, other sponges may sneeze to keep them clean.