Sponges are members of the Porifera phylum, which contains over 5,000 species of aquatic organisms. Although they resemble plants, sponges are members of the Animal kingdom. These strange creatures are typified by their systems of pores and canals through which water flows.
Most sponges live in the ocean, although a few live in freshwater. Among the marine sponges is the elephant ear sponge (Agelas clathrodes). When living, this sponge is a brilliant orange shade on the outside and light orange within. Its massive, compressed form rises from a narrow base. This sponge's outer skin is fleshy and rough to the touch. It can grow to widths of 13 inches.
The elephant ear sponge inhabits coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Ocean. Specimens have been observed in Barbados, Belize, the Cayman Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama and Venezuela.
Elephant ear sponges are utilized for decorative purposes in saltwater aquariums. They are also harvested and dried for use by painters and other artisans, who prize them for their texture.
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images ocean image by Garth Galbraith from Fotolia.com
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