Sponges Bore Into Shells Twice as Fast as Acidic Sea Water

by Hannah Waters

Whenever anyone talks about ocean acidification, they discuss vanishing corals and other shelled organisms. But these aren’t the only organisms affected—the organisms that interact with these vulnerable species will also change along with them.

These changes won’t necessarily be for the good of the shell and skeleton builders. New research published in Marine Biology shows that boring sponges eroded scallop shells twice as fast under the more acidic conditions projected for the year 2100. This makes bad news for the scallops even worse: not only will they have to cope with weakened shells from acidification alone, but their shells will crumble even more quickly after their cohabiters move in.

Boring sponges aren’t named thus because they’re mundane; rather, they make their homes by boring holes into the calcium carbonate shells and skeletons of animals like scallops, oysters and corals. Using chemicals, they etch into the shell and then mechanically wash away the tiny shell chips, slowly spreading holes within the skeleton or shell and sometimes across its surface. Eventually, these holes and tunnels can kill their host, but the sponge will continue to live there until the entire shell has eroded away…

(read more: Surprising Science - Smithsonian)

(photos: T - Sean Nash | Flickr; B - Bernard Picton, Nat. Museums No. Ireland)

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