Achoo

Watch sea sponges sneeze out stringy mucus in slow motion

Gesundheit!

Current Biology/Kornder et al

Shutterstock

Feeding is a sedentary act for reef sponges — as are all other tasks.

Shutterstock

Sponges rely on water currents to carry nutritious phytoplankton and bacteria into their orbit since they’re attached to the seafloor.

But not everything in the water is edible for a sponge.

Sometimes they ingest particles that are too big to break down, so they employ a familiar technique to dispose of waste.

Current Biology/Kornder et al

Current Biology/Kornder et al

Writing this week in the journal Current Biology, researchers recorded sponges sneezing mucus in slow motion to rid their bodies of unwanted substances.

“Let’s be clear: sponges don’t sneeze like humans do. A sponge sneeze takes about half an hour to complete. But both sponge and human sneezes exist as a waste disposal mechanism.”

Jasper de Goeij, marine biologist and study author, in a press release.

Georgette Douwma/Stone/Getty Images

Sponge sneezes have been recorded in previous studies, but the researchers wanted to get a more detailed look at how the sponges manage it.

Mauricio Handler/Photodisc/Getty Images

Current Biology/Kornder et al

Up close on the surface of the Caribbean stove-pipe sponge, Aplysina archeri, discarded particles form into stringy bits of mucus that accumulate at junctions all over its body.

Openings called ostia take in particles and discard them via “mucus highways” that connect to the junctions.

Current Biology/Kornder et al

Then over the course of roughly 30 minutes, the sponge constricts its tissue to free mucus clumps from its surface.

Current Biology/Kornder et al

Current Biology/Kornder et al

Here’s a time-lapse of another reef sponge, Chelonaplysilla, sneezing to discard a stringy booger.

All that sponge snot is actually a tasty treat for other organisms living in the sea.

Shutterstock

Current Biology/Kornder et al

In this time-lapse, unidentified fauna swipe away bits of mucus from the surface of a sponge in the Great Barrier Reef.

And here, small worms scavenge inside the mucus highways of the sponge Hallsarca caerulea in the Southern Caribbean.

Current Biology/Kornder et al

Shutterstock

One organism’s trash is another’s treasure.

The snot accumulating on a sponge offers an easy way for swimming creatures to gather sustenance in one place instead of chasing food through open waters.

“Some organic matter exists in the water surrounding the coral reef, but most of it is not concentrated enough for other animals to eat. Sponges transform this material into eatable mucus.”

Study author Niklas Kornder, in a press release.

Shutterstock