Planet Earth

Fiber-optic Sponges

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

The millions of long, thin, sharp silica spicules in Rossella racovitzae sponges, three-foot high brown organisms that inhabit the Ross Sea in Antarctica, give the sponge structure and shape, as well as ward off predators. Biologist Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, of the University of Genoa in Italy, and his colleagues have found that the spicules also pipe light into the sponge, much like fiber-optic wires. The transmitted light appears to support symbiotic photosynthetic green algae that produce sugars for the sponge. Cattaneo-Vietti and his colleagues determined how well the four- inch-long structures transmit light by bending a spicule 90 degrees and shining a red laser into it. About 65 percent of the light was transmitted one and a half inches from the top of the spicule; at approximately two and a half inches from the top (past the bend), 10 percent of the laser light was still getting through. Silica spicules are an essential part of all sponges, and Cattaneo-Vietti suspects they may have a similar light-piping function in many of them.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month
Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
1 free articleSubscribe
Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.