Strange, carnivorous ocean sponge found

Nov. 12, 2012 at 5:52 PM

MOSS LANDING, Calif., Nov. 12 (UPI) -- A carnivorous sponge looking like a candelabra or harp has been discovered deep beneath the ocean surface off the coast of California, researchers say.

Marine scientists at Monterey Bay Research Aquarium Institute, writing in the journal Invertebrate Biology, said the harp sponge was first discovered by a remotely operated vehicle more than 2 miles below the surface.

"We were just amazed. No one had ever seen this animal with their own eyes before," Lonny Lundsten, an invertebrate biologist at the research institute, said.

Researchers later collected two examples of Chondrocladia lyra, and made video observations of 10 more, OurAmazingPlanet reported.

Barbed hooks covering the sponge's branching limbs trap and hold crustaceans brought into range by deep-sea currents, and the sponge then envelopes and digests its prey.

Researchers said it's likely the harp sponge evolved its multi-branch structure, looking something like a cross between a harp and a candelabra, to increase the area it could present to currents to capture more prey.

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