Under water exploration is still a challenge that we are coping with and despite the technological advances in the last decade or two, deep ocean dives continue to be risky and in many ways, limiting. The oceans’ depths are filled with creatures and ecosystems that are truly alien to us. Glass Sponge is one of those creatures that we are just starting to comprehend. These unique sponges (some believe they are in a class of their own as species) are found mostly in Antarctic waters that are deep. They are not often found in shallow reefs and the amazing thing about them is their longevity.
One of the skeletons of Glass Sponge found in East China Sea is showed that the creature lived for 11,000 years and during this life span has seen some remarkable temperature changes in the waters that surround it. By using modern science and studying the trace elements and oxygen isotopes in its ring structure, a team of experts from Max Planck Institute for Chemistry have determined that the temperature varied from about 2 degrees Celsius at the time of its birth to six and ten degrees for a period in between. Then the underwater temperatures dropped back to around four degrees that is the recorded temperature today in the East China Sea at the depths at which the Glass Sponge is normally found.
The sudden increase in temperature for a specific period of time along with manganese content in the rings during the same period clearly indicate an volcanic eruption in the ocean bed during the time. This amazing new natural catalogue allows researchers to map both local global deep ocean temperatures dating back to several thousands of years. Add to this the ability of the Glass Sponge to live as long as 23,000 years (according to the data found from some skeletons) and scientists can map ocean temperature patterns and study changes that date back a long time. A truly amazing creature that provides a window into the past!