Any of some 5,000 species (phylum Porifera) of permanently affixed (sessile), mostly marine, solitary or colonial invertebrates, found from shallow to deep (more than 30,000 ft, or 9,000 m) waters. Simple sponges are hollow cylinders with a large opening at the top through which water and wastes are expelled. A thin, perforated outer epidermal layer covers a porous skeleton, which is composed of interlocking spicules of calcium carbonate, silica, or spongin (found in 80% of all sponges), a proteinaceous material. The body, ranging in diameter or length from 1 in. (2.5 cm) to several yards, may be fingerlike, treelike, or a shapeless mass. Sponges lack organs and specialized tissue; flagellated cells move water into the central cavity through the perforations, and individual cells digest food (bacteria, other microorganisms, and organic debris), excrete waste, and absorb oxygen. Sponges can reproduce asexually or sexually. Larval forms are free-swimming but all adults are sessile. Since antiquity, sponges have been harvested for use in holding water, bathing, and scrubbing; because of overharvesting and newer technologies, most sponges sold today are synthetic.
A simple saclike sponge. Its surface is perforated by small openings (incurrent pores) formed by
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