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Harp sponge: Carnivorous 'Velcro-like' sponge discovered in deep sea off California coast

harp sponge

Screenshot via MBARI video

The newly discovered carnivorous "harp sponge."

Candelabra-shaped and carnivorous, a newly discovered sea creature — the "harp sponge" — has been found clinging to the ocean floor off Monterey Bay. 

Armed with "Velcro-like barbed hooks," the sponge — first observed via remote vehicle by a Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) team in 2000 — lives about two miles under the sea and feeds on crustaceans, reports Our Amazing Planet

Velcro-like barbed hooks cover the sponge's branching limbs, snaring crustaceans as they are swept into its branches by deep-sea currents. Once the harp sponge has its meal, it envelops the animal in a thin membrane, and then slowly begins to digest its prey.

Two sponges were collected off the coast of California by researchers; 10 others were filmed. The largest observed specimen was about 14 inches tall, and the sponges varied in structure. Scientists believe the sponge evolved a multi-pronged shape, in part, to cover more food-grabbing surface area.