Nature goes deep, deep into the subconscious pit of our fears… or at least the Pacific Ocean… to present the underwater answer to the Venus flytrap:
Which is where MBARI’s remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) Tiburon and Doc Ricketts, come in. Using these deep-diving vessels, a team of researchers led by Senior Research Technician Lonny Lundsten discovered a species of harp sponge called Chondrocladia lyra off the coast of California, at depths of 3316–3399m.
As Mr_Skeleton pointed out on Reddit this week, this sponge doesn’t look like it could clean anything. But it can catch prey, envelope it in membrane and digest it whole, so it certainly has other priorities. Based on footage of several individuals and two large, fragmentary specimens brought up by the ROVs, Lundsten’s team described how the vertical branches and horizontal stolons that make up the sponge’s basic harp-like structure, called a vane, are covered in barbed hooks and spines. They found that a number of crustacean prey were passively ensnared on these branches thanks to the Velcro-like hooks and then aggressively enclosed in a cavity to be dismembered into small, digestible particles, which provided direct evidence of the species’ carnivorous appetites.