Sponges Can Think, and They Use Light to Do It

We live in a strange world, and it even gets stranger when you look under the surface of the sea. Much of that area is unexplored, but the part we do know about offers wonders beyond our imagination.

This is seen in some of the larger organisms that live in the area, as well as some of the smaller creatures that inhabit the deep. This includes sponges, a living organism we might not give much thought to on a regular basis.

Photos: Wikimedia Commons / NOAA

To be certain, I’m not talking about the type of sponge we use when we are standing at the kitchen sink. There are many different types of sponges, and this particular sponge is known as the Venus Flower Basket.

These sponges are also sometimes called glass sponges, and they are beautiful in their design. The silica fibers of the sponge make up a lacy skeleton that can act like fiber optics and conduct light.

To look into this further, the host of SciShow, Rose Bear Don’t Walk, looked into the matter. They talked about how this sponge, as well as certain other sponges, may be able to think by transmitting information internally using light.

The host admits that these sponges may not be very complex, but they have been around for billions of years. During that time, they may have developed the ability to think in such a way. They may also have had the ability all along.

Photos: Pixabay / Engin_Akyurt

Although the silica fibers in these glass sponges allow them to conduct light, there are also other sponges that may have a similar ability. Some of them create bioluminescence when they emit certain proteins that mix with oxygen. Others may send chemical signals.

To describe this, the host says: “These molecules move through the body much more slowly than nerve signals. But like nerve signals, they can also trigger certain behaviors in cells. Like, they can make cells contract or kick their metabolism into gear, all in response to what’s going on in the sponge’s environment.”

This is something that they have not observed anywhere else in nature. Then again, it may exist, we just haven’t discovered it yet.

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