The oceans are home to a wide variety of creatures, from the microscopic single-celled organisms all the way to gigantic beings with fascinatingly complex anatomies. Remember the 770 lbs giant squid captured in the Antarctic Ocean? Or the mammoth squid egg mass discovered near Turkey that was nearly as big as an actual car? This time around, a team of scientists has made another interesting discovery: a mammoth sea sponge whose size is comparable to that of a minivan.
Found close to the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii, the sea sponge, which is believed to be several centuries old, is the largest of its kind known to mankind. It was discovered as part of an expedition in 2015. It was while surveying the area around the national monument that researchers on board the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Okeanos Explorer actually stumbled across this giant sea sponge.
Using remote-controlled inspection vehicles, the team was able to locate the sponge at a depth of over 7,000 feet underwater. According to the scientists, it measures around 12 feet in length and approximately 7 feet in width, and is almost as big as a real minivan. Speaking about the incredible discovery, recently published in the Marine Biodiversity journal, Daniel Wagner, the lead researcher of the group, said:
The largest portion of our planet lies in deep waters, the vast majority of which has never been explored. Finding such an enormous and presumably old sponge emphasizes how much can be learned from studying deep and pristine environments such as those found in the remote Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
Although the exact age of the sea sponge has not yet been determined, it is claimed to be several centuries old. That, however, comes as no surprise, since some of the largest specimens living in shallow waters have been around for as long as 2,300 years.