Edited Guest blog from Martina Milanese*
What can you do with a sponge?
They are all around us. They where here before us. And we hardly know about them…Thinking of mysterious monsters? Relax! It’s just … Sponges!
Whether you dive in the sea, lakes or even in rivers, Sponges will be common companions. Depth is no factor, nor is latitude. The world’s oldest animals, they are quite well adapted to any aquatic environment you could wish to imagine. You may think Sponges are all the same, but they come in endless variety of shapes and colours, peculiar biology, or essential roles played in the ecosystem. All this comes in handyfor diving professionals looking for something new, curious and engaging.
- Sponges are sessile organisms, which means they stick to the bottom and don’t move. You can always count on them, even when visibility is so bad that you give up on fish and other marine life.
- Many are large and colourful, and worth making on to your dive plan.
- They create 3D habitats that are used by other aquatic life, such as crustaceans, nudibranchs, fish small and big, sea stars and Crinoids. Find a sponge – discover a universe.
- In some places they literally dominate the seascape – you just can’t avoid them.
- There are incredible stories about sponges: how they are crucial to the lobster industry; why they keep our oceans clean; what a natural bath sponge really is; how dolphins use sponges; why sponges are at the forefront of the medical research… whatever you like, there’s a sponge waiting for you.
You see. There are many ways to use a sponge besides in a bubble bath! Sponges are great for dives where large encounters may be rare, ideal for PADI courses such as Digital Underwater Photography, Videographer and Naturalist, and great when diving with youngsters(yes, you can also mention the yellow cartoon guy…). Moreover, stories about their secret lives will intrigue you. Trust me: in my career as a marine researcher and a PADI professional they never let me down!
Want to find more about sponges and sponge stories?
Check the project SPECIAL outreach section (http://www.project-special.eu/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=227&Itemid=91) or its dedicated YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/projectSPECIALeu).
* A PADI diver since 1993 and now MSDT n. 964347, Martina Milanese received her PhD in Marine Sciences in 2004. She has been working as a dive master, instructor, awareness promoter and u/w videographer in the Maldives, in the Red Sea and in Italy. Since 2005 she is also the managing director at Studio Associato Gaia snc, a company specialised in marine research and technology, outreach and project management.