I drink no more than a sponge.

FRANCOIS RABELAIS (1483-1553)

Sponges

STEVEN WRIGHT

Sponges grow in the ocean. This bothers me. How deep would it be if they didn't?

Some living sponges have exoskeletons.

Loofahs


Loofahs are a kind of fruit. The smooth loofah (Luffa aegyptiaca) is a rampant, fast growing annual vine that produces pretty yellow flowers and strange looking fruits that are edible when immature and used as back scrubbers or sponges when fully mature. The vine can grow more than 30ft (9m) long and scrambles over anything in its path. Smooth loofah is probably native to tropical Africa and Asia. It is grown throughout most of Asia for food and for pot scrubbers, and is cultivated commercially in the United States for export to Japan.

 
The immature fruits, 3-6 inches in length, can be stir-fried whole or sliced, or they can be grated and used in soups and omelettes. Larger fruits that are 4-6 inches in length will need to be peeled because the skin becomes bitter.

If allowed to mature on the vine until they start turning brown and their stems yellow, loofahs become easy to peel for use as back scrubbers or kitchen pot scrubbers.

5,000 Sponges


Sponges are worldwide in their distribution, and range from waters of the polar regions to the tropical regions, although they prefer warmer water and a rocky bottom to attach themselves to.

There are about 5,000 living sponge species, which used to be regarded as vegetables. They are now classified as animals, although they don’t have organs, or even tissues. They are integrated networks of cells, extraordinarily independent from each other. In fact, the individual cells are so loosely connected that you can literally shake a sponge apart - sponge ‘tissues’ are mostly just aggregates in space and time.


 

‘Gossypiboma’ is when a surgeon accidentally leaves a sponge inside their patient.

The Reassembling Sponge


If you strain a sponge through a fine cloth, separating its very cells one from another, the cells can still reunite and become a sponge again. It's the only animal known to be able to do this.

If you took several sponges of different species, whizzed them in a liquidizer, and poured the resultant smoothie into a salt water tank, the scattered bits would reassemble according to species, and form living sponges again. Don’t try this with other species.

Boring Sponges


Boring sponges excavate the surface of corals and molluscs to create fortified homes. They secrete chemicals that eat away at calcium carbonate. They're capable of destroying entire reefs that way and can  wreck mussel and oyster beds. They sometimes attach themselves to snail shells which are already being squatted by hermit crabs - which makes them highly mobile.

They can bore into non-biological material too. In 1871, a vessel loaded with marble sank in Long Island Sound. 8 years later it was noted that the boring sponge had penetrated the exposed parts of the marble to a depth of two to three inches.

They will readily grow on empty shells making them beneficial to the marine environment by recycling calcium carbonate back into the water. 
 
In some areas bridge supports are no longer constructed of limestone because of the bioerosive effect of these animals.

WINSTON CHURCHILL (1874-1965)

When you took your seat I felt as if a woman had come into my bathroom and I had only the sponge to defend myself.

Flint 


Flint is made out of sponge: it’s a form of quartz, a silicate deposited by long-dead sponges. The unique crystalline structure makes it exceptionally hard and sharper than steel.

Bath Sponges


Poeple have used soft sponges for many purposes, including padding for helmets, portable drinking utensils and municipal water filters. Until the invention of synthetic sponges, they were used as cleaning tools, applicators for paints and even as contraceptives.

Today bath sponges tend to be synthetic but they used to be natural. The type used was a ‘horny sponge’ (horny sponges belong to the orders Dictyoceratida and Dendroceratida), which has collagen as it main organic component. 

Dolphins attach sponges to their snouts to protect themselves when hunting among sharp coral.

The earliest known multi-celled animal fossils are sponges from China that are roughly 600,000,000 years old.

FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE (1844-1900)

One must learn to be a sponge if one wants to be loved by hearts that overflow.

Some tropical and deep-ocean sponges can live for more than 200 years.