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Are Sea Sponges Plants or Animals?

Updated on November 2, 2016


Sea sponges belong to the group Porifera. This means pore-bearer and refers to the many pores or holes in the body of the sponge. In this way they are similar to household sponges. They vary in color, size, and shape. They may be black, white, red, blue, orange, or yellow. They can be microscopic or as much as two meters wide. Some are slim and branched, while others are thick and tube-like.

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There are about 5,000 species of sponges. Most live in warm seas, but a few kinds live in colder waters. All sponges grow attached to some underwater object. Some attach themselves to the backs of crabs or snails. In this way the sponges are carried to new sources of food. In turn, the crabs or snails are hidden from their enemies. Because sponges do not move from place to place on their own, they were once thought to be plants.


The Sponge's Body

A sponge is the simplest of the many celled animals. Its body is made of two layers of cells like a thick empty sack with a large opening at the top. Between the two layers is a jellylike substance in which are structures to help support the sponge body. In some sponges, spicules, or hard materials, are the support structures. In other sponges, a rubberlike material, called spongin provides support. Some sponges contain both spicules and spongin.

Cell Functions

Water Currents

The cells of a sponge perform different or specialized functions. Along the inside of the body wall are many long-necked cells called collar cells. A whiplike structure, called a flagellum extends from each of these collar cells into the empty space of the sponge body. Each flagellum waves back and forth all the time. This movement causes a current of water to flow through the many pores in the body wall. Particles of food such as bacteria, algae, and other microscopic organisms are carried in by the currents of water and are trapped by the collar cells. Other cells, known as wandering cells, pick up and circulate the food to the other cells of the sponge. Water and wastes pass out of the body through the opening at the top.



Although simple in stucture, sponges have the remarkable ability to replace lost parts. This is called regeneration. For instance, if a sponge is torn into pieces by strong currents, each piece may grow into a new sponge.


The Environment

Sponges are also capable of surviving when environmental conditions change. If the water becomes too cold, or dries up, sponges may form special buds called gemmules. Gemmules are made of special cells and stored food. Though the rest of the sponge may die, as soon as conditions are again favorable, each gemmule may become a new sponge.

Sea Creature Comments

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    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 4 years ago from Ljubljana

      Sea is endless resource of fascination for me. Sponges are no exception:)

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      I was always very fascinated by the sea and the multitude of species that live there. The gorgeous thought of a clam creating a pearl may have encouraged this love lol.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Nice article -- made even nicer by the use of your own photos. You didn't mention that you dive, but you must to get the photos.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Very informative lens, and I learned a few things. I always thought they were plants, now I know better. :-)

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I see many when I snorkel and it is good to know them a bit better.

    • greenspirit profile image

      poppy mercer 4 years ago from London

      Aren't they amazing! I love the fact that they can adapt AND regenerate. Magical creatures; I always think it rather sad to see them used as bath sponges.

    • profile image

      NC Shepherd 5 years ago

      Quite interesting. Thanks for the insights. I don't know much about sea creatures.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Very intriguing title question! Thanks for the detailed answer too. :)

    • Ben Reed profile image

      Ben Reed 6 years ago from Redcar

      I really enjoyed the lense - thank you.

    • profile image

      miaponzo 6 years ago

      Thanks for this great lens! I only use sea sponges actually :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Sea Sponges are very cool, this is a great lens, thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      That's great information on the sea-sponges. I am sure there are many such species lurking in the depth of oceans.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Sponges are fascinating. I did not know that sponges can regenerate!

    • Dee Gallemore profile image

      Dee Gallemore 7 years ago

      Boy, did I learn something new! Well done and love the images!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 7 years ago from Canada

      Nicely done. You taught me something new this morning :)

    • NanLT profile image

      Nan 7 years ago from London, UK

      fascinating and beautiful

      Added to "Another 100 Lenses for my 200th Lenses"

    • blue22d profile image

      blue22d 7 years ago

      Love the videos. I would love to go down into the sea and see the sponges, corals, etc.