Scientists learn how the sea sponge sneezes and what’s in the snot | Smart News

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A sort of Chelonaplysilla sea ​​sponge ejects mucus.
Korder et al. via current biology

Despite their lack of nerves, muscles, or even a brain, sea sponges have the ability to expel clumps of mucus from their bodies like a sneeze. This behavior has long been known to scientists, but exactly how it happened has remained a mystery, until now.

In a new study published in Current biologythe researchers found that the sponges slowly eject mucus through their seawater inlet pores, called ostia, to get rid of unwanted particles.

“Our data suggests that sneezing is an adaptation that sponges have developed to keep themselves clean,” Jasper de Goeij, a marine biologist at the University of Amsterdam and lead author of the paper, said in a statement. “Let’s be clear: sponges don’t sneeze like humans. A sponge sneeze takes about half an hour. But the human sponge and sneeze exist as a waste disposal mechanism.

The team recorded time-lapse videos of mucus expelled from a Caribbean sponge Aplysina archericalled a stovepipe sponge for its tubular shape, and another Indo-Pacific species of the genus Chelonaplysilla. The snot exited the creatures’ ostia, traveled along defined paths on the surface of the sponge – or “mucus highways” – and collected in rope-like clumps. The spongy tissue sometimes contracted and pushed these clumps into the surrounding water.

The sponges actively moved the sediment-trapping mucus against the direction of their incoming water flow, the authors write.

About 81% of the mucus contained inorganic sediment, according to the study. The remaining 19% was rich in carbon and nitrogen, making it a good meal for other animals, such as shrimp and small crustaceans, says first author Niklas Kornder from the University of Amsterdam. new scientist Christa Leste-Lasserre.

Sea sponge time lapse

Time lapse of an unknown sea sponge

Korder et al. via current biology

“Every time a sponge sneezes, there’s this whole resource that’s now available to these other organisms,” Kornder told the publication. “And that could actually create some of the amazing diversity that we see on these very beautiful reefs, with their very complex ecosystems.”

The study raises more questions about sponge mucus, including whether it’s similar to snot from other animals, which cells produce it and what triggers a sneeze, Sally Leys, an evolutionary biologist at the University of ‘Alberta and co-author of the study, recounts the New York Times’ Sam Jones.

“When we have a runny nose, we take out the Kleenex”, she tells the Time. “But how does a sponge know it’s time to sneeze?”

While researchers have recorded two species of sneezing sponges, they believe most sponges have this ability, according to the statement. Kornder explains that he has seen mucus buildup on different sponges while diving and in photos of other scientists.

Blake Ushijima, a coral researcher at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington who was not involved in the new study, recounts the Time that this research might even provide clues to human evolution.

“It could give us clues as to how early life evolved from these brainless squishy things to these complex spacecraft-building organisms,” he told the publication.

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