The Porifera Life Cycle

Instructor: Ebony Potts

Ebony has taught middle and high school physical science, life science & biology. She's also been an assistant principal and has a doctorate in educational administration.

Have you ever seen a sea sponge before? Do you know how they reproduce? In his lesson you will learn all about Porifera, how they reproduce, and the processes they go through to complete their life cycle.

Sponges to the Rescue

One morning you go to grab your orange juice and drop it. Crash! Orange juice everywhere! To clean it up, you reach for the sponge. When your little brother comes downstairs having just watched Spongebob Squarepants on television. He asks you if there are real sponges like your sponge and like Spongebob.

Class Porifera- Sea Sponges

You tell your brother that real sponges can look very similar to the ones he knows. These animals belong to a class called Porifera, or sea sponges. You explain that sponges we use are usually manufactured, but you can buy real sea sponges to use for cleaning or especially in showers, like loofahs (the sponge is no longer alive at that point!).

Green Sea Sponge and a Yellow Sea Sponge
Sea sponge

There are nearly 5000 species of sponges, multi-cellular, invertebrate organisms, that have no organs. They also don't have a nervous system, so they are unable to feel pain. Sponges have cells and tissues that surround a water filled space, but don't have an actual closed body cavity. They filter feed on tiny organisms floating in the waters near them. Fossils of sponges are the oldest known animal fossils, up to 600 million years old!

Life Cycle of Porifera

Sponges are hermaphroditic, they function as either male or female for reproduction. They can even produce eggs and sperm at different points in time. An adult sponge has two choices on how offspring can be produced, asexually or sexually.

In asexual reproduction, cells will gather and grow off the original sponge, called budding, and will either stay attached to the parent sponge or drift off to another spot. In winter or harsher climates, freshwater sponges will make gemmules, little bunches of cells in a protective covering that can survive the tougher weather and wait for better conditions to germinate.

Sponges also use this asexual process to regenerate lost or damaged parts. No two sponges are exactly alike, even the asexually produced ones grow according to their new environment, resulting in a differently shaped sponge than its parent.

Sexual reproduction seems like it could be difficult for a species that is sessile, meaning they stay in one spot and don't move! So how they do it?

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