Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

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.

    2 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In