Thought to be long extinct, glass sponges were discovered off the BC coast in 1987. Animals, not plants, they are the world's oldest multi-cellular organisms
Photo Credit: Neil McDaniel

Prehistoric “glass sponge reefs” off Canada’s west coast

It was long thought that these “glass-sponges” had died out in the Jurassic era, 40 million years ago.  Then by accident, they were discovered surviving in deep waters just off Canada’s British Columbia coast.

Survivors from millions of years ago, some of the BC sponge reefs are thought be up to 9,000 years old. © Neil McDaniel

They have since been discovered elsewhere including in Antarctica, but only in Howe Sound, the Sraight of Georgia and other areas have they created actual sponge reefs growing on top of dead predecessors.

In fact they are only a few kilometers off shore from the major urban centre and port city, Vancouver.

They are found about 70 metres down, in waters too deep for normal scuba diving and are being explored by special submarines.

They’re called glass sponges as the animal (not a plant) is actually part plant as their skeletal structure is based on silica they absorb from the ocean.

Too deep for traditional scuba divers, the reefs are being explored this week by special submarines © Nuytco Research Ltd.

Scientists say they are important as a refuge and nursery for certain endangered fish such as small rockfish, which can live for 100 years, and lingcod.

They also act as filters of bacteria in ocean water, with just one sponge capable of filtering 9,000 litres of water per day.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is now working to get the fragile sponge areas closed to certain types of fishing such as prawn traps and trawling.

The hope to eventually have the areas declared marine sanctuaries

Categories: Environment & Animal Life, Internet, Science & Technology

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

For reasons beyond our control, and for an undetermined period of time, our comment section is now closed. However, our social networks remain open to your contributions.