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New WAM to explore crucial role of sponges

Haliclona durdong, a sponge species found in temperate coastal seas in southwest Western Australia. Source: Western Australian Museum.

Robyn Williams, The crucial role of sponges in aquatic ecosystems, ABC The Science Show, 7 March 2020

On The Science Show with Robyn Williams

Download 15.17 MB

They might appear to be doing nothing, but sponge specialist at the Western Australian Museum, Jane Fromont says sponges are always busy. There’s a lot happening, be it feeding, reproducing or laying down material for their glass swords. Jane describes two groups of sponges from very different environments. There’s the sponges of the deep sea canyons off the Western Australian coast. They are found at depths of 4,000m, where there is enormous pressure, it is cold, dark, and rather unchanging. These amazing creatures, known as the glass sponges filter bacteria from the water and produce a glass skeleton, including a single glass spicule which anchors them to the sea bed. Jane Fromont describes their filtering of bacteria as a great asset for the ocean.

Then there the sponges of the shallow waters. These are the demosponges. These animals cycle essential nutrients such as phosphorus, calcium and nitrogen. And they are used by humpback whales in what is thought to be courtship behaviour. The humpbacks can often be seen with sponges on their nose or rostrum presumably to attract females.

Sponges will be a major exhibit at the newly developed Western Australian Museum which will open towards the end of 2020.

Jane Fromont
Research Scientist
Western Australian Museum
Perth WA

Robyn Williams

David Fisher
Duration: 11min 2secBroadcast: Sat 7 Mar 2020, 12:29pm

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