What is the world's largest barrel sponge?

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 10.51.20 AMIt is probably this 2.5 meter (8.2 feet) diameter giant that was a tourist attraction for scuba divers visiting Curaçao in the Caribbean in the early 1990s.  Unfortunately frequent touching by scuba divers likely caused lesions that lead to an infection of the sponge tissue (show as the dark spot pointed to by the arrow in the photo).  By mid-May of 1997 only a large piece of the outer edge sponge remained.  Other barrel sponges in the area were were not impacted suggesting that it was indeed the touching by divers that led to the sponge’s demise.  Through the research of my student Shane Stone and myself, this specimen is so far the largest documented specimen.

Nagelkerken, I. 2000 Barrel sponge bows out. Reef Encounter 28, 14-15.

Dr. M (1714 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

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