Sponges also “sneeze” to remove debris

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Sneeze may be one of the oldest ways organisms have to get rid of unwanted waste. Now, a scientific team has found that sponges, one of the oldest multicellular organisms that exist, also do it.

The purpose of this “sneeze” is to get rid of waste and unclog internal systems filters that they use to capture nutrients from the water, say researchers from the University of Amsterdam, who also discovered that other animals that live with sponges use their mucus as food.

“Our data suggest that sneezing is an adaptation that sponges have evolved to keep themselves clean.“, says Jasper de Goeij, a marine biologist at the University of Amsterdam and author of the article.

Although this behavior has been known for years, scientists show in this work that these sneezes remove materials that sponges cannot use.

“Let’s be clear: sponges don’t sneeze like humans. A sponge sneeze takes about half an hour to completebut both sponge and human sneezes exist as a waste removal mechanism,” De Goeij said.

The sponges feed by filtering organic matter from the water, sucking in and expelling water through different openings and sometimes absorbing particles that are too large, explains Cell Press, a group that publishes Current Biology, a journal in which these findings are published, in a statement.

They are sponges; they can’t go anywhere else when the water around them gets too dirty. This is where the ‘sneeze’ mechanism comes in handy.“, says De Goeij.

Niklas Kornder, another of the authors, details that although the mucus can be a residue for the sponges, the fish that live around them think otherwise: “We also observe that the fish and other animals feed on the mucus of the sponges” .

The job recorded “sneezing” behavior in two species of marine sponges, the Caribbean tubular sponge “Aplysina archeri” and another Indo-Pacific species of the genus “Chelonaplysilla”.

We actually believe that most if not all sponges sneeze. I’ve seen mucus build up on different sponges while diving and in photos taken by other scientists for other purposes,” says Kornder.

“There are many scientists who think that sponges are very simple organisms, but most of the time we are surprised by the flexibility they show to adapt to their environment“, concludes de Goeij.

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