Porifera Digestive System & Excretion

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  • 0:01 What are Porifera?
  • 1:57 Digestion
  • 3:35 Excretion
  • 4:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

This lesson is on the digestive and excretory systems of porifera. In this lesson, we'll go over what a poriferan is and the basic cells needed to digest food and excrete waste.

What Are Porifera?

A glance under the sea while snorkeling, or even in the pages of National Geographic, might reveal a colorful forest of plants and animals. However, the organisms you might quickly identify as plants are surprisingly animals. Large, colorful barrels and branching tree-like structures attached to rocks aren't plants after all. These sessile, non-moving, organisms are called porifera.

Porifera are a group of the most basic animals. They are made of four types of cells bound together with a gel-like substance called mesenchyme. Other, more evolved animals have collections of cells that all work together in tissues, which make organs and organ systems. These complex structures are absent in porifera.

Think of animal species like businesses. Businesses usually start pretty simple. Even giants like Apple were once just a few employees in one building. Some small, simple companies, like maybe a local sandwich shop, stay the same. Each person does a few different jobs with maybe one main focus. They make a profit and do just fine. Likewise, the porifera sea sponge are simple creatures with only a few cell types, and have survived for hundreds of millions of years.

Some businesses get more and more complex. Companies like Apple or Microsoft now have dozens of departments, each with department heads and different people working under them, all over the world. Likewise, humans have evolved considerably since their simple start, and are now complex creatures with over 200 different cell types.

But, both companies still make a profit and stay out there in the business world. The porifera certainly have been around for billions of years on Earth, so they must have processes that work well. Let's take a look at two of them, digestion and excretion.


Digestion is the process of taking in food and breaking it down to get energy. Porifera are filter feeders, meaning they take in water and extract their prey from it, instead of actively going after prey like a fish or shark. Water flows in through incurrent canals, which are all holes over the outside of the poriferan, like the holes you see in your kitchen sponge. Then, the water flows out through a central opening at the top, called the osculum. Let's look closer at what cells are involved in this process next.

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