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 (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.