Porifera: Species & Types

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  • 0:00 What Is a Poriferan?
  • 0:53 Asconoid
  • 1:34 Syconoid
  • 2:15 Leuconoid
  • 3:10 Species of Sponges
  • 4:31 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 poriferans, stationary animals of the sea from the phylum Porifera. In this lesson, we'll go over the three types of poriferans and look at an example of each type, then you can test your knowledge with a short quiz.

What Is a Poriferan?

Picture yourself scuba diving in a tropical paradise. Under the sea, beautiful fish swim through gardens of coral, and colorful tubes that look like plants sprout from the cracks. However, these tubes are actually animals called sea sponges, or poriferans.

Poriferans are stationary animals that live mostly in salt water and grow off of a rock substrate. Although poriferans all seem similar, once you dive into different parts of the ocean, you'll quickly realize that Porifera is quite a diverse group. With over 8,000 species occurring in colors of the entire spectrum, and sizes ranging from under one inch to over ten feet, poriferans are quite complex. Today, we'll look at the three types of poriferans and some interesting examples of each. Let's start with asconoid.


Sea sponges are classified into three types based on their body plan, or how their cells are organized. The asconoid sponge is the simplest type of sponge, and it has a body with radial symmetry, meaning it looks the same on all sides. Water flows into the sponge through pores on the surface to the atrium, which is a central cavity. Think of each pore like a tiny road into the town, or atrium. Inside the sponge, tiny cells called choanocytes use flagella to create a current. As water flows through the sponge, microscopic prey is captured as food. Water then flows out of the osculum, a central hole at the top.


Now let's talk about syconoid sponges, which get a little more complex. Syconoid sponges have thicker walls and a more complex series of canals that allow for water flow. Instead of the tiny, straight roads that the asconoid sponges have, these sponges have roads with intersections. The in-current canals that allow water to flow into the atrium have branches, and can be complex, with many types of cells participating in water movement. The water flows into the atrium through these many roads, but still goes out only one opening, the osculum. Some syconoid sponges have radial symmetry as well, but many have an irregular shape.


Now we come to the leuconoid variety. Leuconoid sponges are the largest sea sponges and have evolved in current canals of even greater complexity in order to support their large bodies. Being more complicated than syconoid sponges, they lack radial symmetry and often take on irregular shapes. The water canals are branched like the syconoid sponges, but only some canals have flagella, enabling the sponge to control which way water flows into the atrium. The top of this sponge also has multiple oscula, further complicating the water flow pattern. This allows the sponge to grow larger because it can distribute oxygen and nutrients more efficiently to its cells. Using our road analogy, this sponge has many intersections, like the syconoid sponge, but there are different speed limits on the road, allowing the traffic to move more directly to the town, or atrium, in some areas.

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