10 Amazing Facts About Chicken Liver Sponge

The chicken liver sponge is not your typically sought-after and straight-forward sea creature.

Let’s be honest here, it is nowhere near as good-looking as a chicken liver treat. Further, it has a notorious reputation for evading firm classification; and chances are even if you ever see it you won’t know what it really is.

So, in many ways it is the underdog of the sea and ocean waters, grimly bobbing and waving to the surface sea and ocean current, as other more visually appealing aquatic flora and fauna take the top spot.

chicken liver sponge
By: Oleksandr Sushko/ Unsplash. Copyright 2021

But out in the Bermuda waters, the chicken liver sponge is a force to be reckoned with. It is part of a species of sea sponge found in the waters of Bermuda and belongs to the family of Chondrillidae.

Like a true sea legend in the making, not only does it have a distinctly unique composition, but it also serves as an indispensable link in the ecosystem.

So, put your diving gear on hold, and join us in restoring this underrated creature to its much-deserved glory, as we stake hold of its most intriguing and curious aspects.

1. Amazing Facts about Bermuda’s Chicken Liver Sponge

1.1. Chicken Liver Sponge: Plant or Animal?

The Caribbean chicken liver sponge is also known as sponge Chondrilla nucula. It is greenish to brown in color and has an amorphous shape.

Leber-Schwamm (Chondrilla nucula), Geißbrasse (Diplodus sargus), Pfauen-Lippfisch (Symphodus tinca)

Sponges, which have been around for ages and are of several types, typically have a simple tissueless body covered in pores. However, the chicken liver sponge1 behaves and exists like a multi-cellular organism of severe complexity.

Like corals, these sponges might appear to be aquatic plants, but they actually belong to the kingdom of Animalia and the class of Demospongiae.

1.1.1. The Scientific Genealogy of Chicken Liver Sponge

  • Kingdom – Animalia
  • Phylum – Porifera
  • Class – Demospongiae
  • Family – Chondrillidae
  • Genus – Condrilla

Furthermore, it was found that chicken liver sponges contain strains of bacteria, which are said to have antimicrobial properties.

chicken liver sponge
By: John Cahil Rom/ Pexels. Copyright 2020

1.2. There are Different Types of Habitats Populated by the Chicken Liver Sponge

Sponges have been categorized as some of the oldest and most primitive organisms. As a subset of sponges, the chicken liver sponges can be traced to two distinct ecosystem variations.

Naturally, the habitat type and the difference in the overall marine ecosystem also manifest in the subtle variations of the characteristics of the chicken liver sponges themselves, especially in terms of their color.

1.2.1. Type A

  • The first type is more common and easily found. They usually have a dark brown color and are often mottled.
  • One’s growing in dark is often pale and sometimes has a walnut brown color.
  • They are amorphous and have smooth, shiny, and glabrous surfaces.
  • Spread horizontally, they are thickly crusted (about 1 cm).
  • This type does not cover larger areas.
  • Commonly found in lagoons and spread over rocky substrates or other sponges.
chicken liver sponge
By: Francesco Ungaro/ Pexels. Copyright 2019

1.2.2. Type B

  • They are often yellowish and brown with dark brown rims.
  • Along with being fulvous, they also have oscules surrounded by paler areas.
  • They are thinly crusting (1 to 2 mm thick) on rocky areas.
  • Their consistency is tougher and cartilaginous.2
  • Cover a much larger area than the first type.
  • They are typically found at Millepora terraces and vertical cliffs.
chicken liver sponge
By: Francesco Ungaro/ Pexels. Copyright 2020

1.3. They Play an Important Role in Maintaining the Ecosystem.

These sponges release toxins and are capable of allelopathy, which results in a growing and large number of sessile organisms in the reef domain.3

Such toxin-releasing organisms are necessary components of the water ecosystem because they help to naturally control the population of other organisms and species within a given water column.

While the chicken liver sponges may serve the crucial function of maintaining balance in the overall ecology of the marine ecosystem they inhabit, they also pose a threat of overgrowth.

Abnormal growth or colonization of surfaces and reef structures by the chicken liver sponges can be detrimental and even wipe out other organisms.

1.4. Reproductive Tendencies of the Chicken Liver Sponge are Sexual

Unlike, freshwater sponges that can reproduce sexually as well as asexually, reproduction by the chicken liver sponge has been observed to be sexual; and fertilization takes place internally.

Chondrilla nucula genus, to which the chicken liver sponges belong, has an impressive regeneration speed, far superior to other types of sponges.

This means that chicken liver sponges are able to generally recover easily whenever any damage or disturbance occurs. They can also produce clones of themselves while reproducing through a modular growth system.

1.5. Chicken Liver Sponge Can be Found in Deep Dark Caves and in Sunny Habitats

chicken liver sponge
By: Yang Wewe/ Unsplash. Copyright 2020

Chicken liver sponges have versatility. They can survive in tropical as well as temperate habitat. You can also find a wide variety of them in substrates including rocks, mangrove roots, and reefs.

Chondrilla nucula4 is a very adaptable species, they can live in places that are very shallow as well as deeper reefs.

1.6. How and What Does a Chicken Liver Sponge Eat?

These multicellular organisms have a body that contains many pores. They absorb nutrients and feed on viruses, plankton, and detritus.

Sponges feed themselves by filtering plankton out of the water through the pores present in their bodies. They are self-sufficient organisms in that sense.

The microscopic beauty of plankton – and their predators

When we talk about Chondrilla nucula specifically, it’s apparent that as organisms that filter their nutrients from the plankton in the water, they don’t really have a digestive system.

They do not have to break down food like mammals do. Quite simple! Right? Not like us humans at all, they are very self-dependent and have no need of support, and never get fussy about their diet.

1.7. Who eats Chicken Liver Sponge?

There are some aquatic organisms that feed on these sponges. These include zebra slugs, angelfish, and hawksbill turtles.

Hawksbill Sea Turtle || Description, Characteristics and Facts!

When digesting it, these sea predators have to store some of the toxins of the chicken liver sponges in their bodies as well to help break down what they eat.

As a result of this, Hawksbill turtles and zebra slugs are very harmful for consumption by humans.

One should also note that consuming Hawksbill turtles can make humans very sick because of their sponge diet, but still, they can be and are hunted for their tortoiseshell.5

chicken liver sponge
By: Tom Fisk/ Pexels. Copyright 2017

Also, for some fishes that eat the Chondrilla nucula, this action can affect how they live and grow. It has an effect on the behavior of the fish and also their reproduction.

1.8. It’s an Invasive Species

Chicken liver sponges can be often found attached to live rocks. This is where they can easily proliferate and grow.

As an invasive species, chicken liver sponges can cause ecological harm by exterminating natural resources in an environment where it is not native. Likewise, it can hold on to your rock work and encrust it.

In order to get rid of chicken liver sponges before they grow to such levels that can affect the marine environment, one must be vigilant, especially if they are being grown in a controlled environment under supervision.

While it’s really hard to get rid of the chicken liver sponges from a rock and to stop their growth, one of the best ways to get rid of them is to lower phosphate levels in their environment.

chicken liver sponge
By: Francesco Ungaro/ Pexels. Copyright 2020

1.9. They are Visually Blind

Chicken liver sponges don’t possess organs like eyes, nose, and tongue. They are multicellular animals that are blind. They can’t see, taste, or hear.

Research shows that sponges may have some sensory or detecting cells, which help them expel, and contract water, and also helps them to contact other organisms.

1.10. Do Chicken Liver Sponges have any Commercial Value?

Well, the answer is yes. They are important in many aquaculture circumstances. They also provide study subjects to our scientists, for their biomedical and chemical research.

Also, some compounds which can be found in chicken liver sponges are said to be bioactive and have effects that are helpful in medical studies and research.

Why Sea Sponges Are So Expensive | So Expensive

2. Discovery of Fungal Symbionts in a Chicken Liver Sponge

It has been brought to light that the oocytes of Chondrilla nucula contain yeast. It is a relatively novel understanding, as previously it was only known to be the case with bacteria and cyanobacteria.

What this means is that the cells present in the chicken liver sponge select the bacteria and fungi that support its existence and are passed down to the successive generation of its kind.

Their presence plays a role in providing nutrients and protection from UV rays to the chicken liver sponges.

There are many studies going on sponges and their life cycle; and on how they can be useful to us. This discovery about the fungal symbionts is very important and will further help many researchers to determine more of their function.

Schwämme (Chondrilla nucula)

Except for the experts in the field, the chicken liver sponge is largely an unknown force of nature. It doesn’t look like much so chances are when you go sea-diving it’s not even on the list of underwater things you want to see.

While nobody is lining up at aquariums and aquatic biology exhibitions, dying for a glimpse of this underrated aquatic being, it is about time to fix this blunder for our own good.

Don’t let this best-kept secret of the ocean elude you anymore and slip through your radar.

3. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

3.1. What Do Chicken Liver Sponges Eat?

Chicken liver sponges eat detritus, plankton, and viruses. They do not have a digestive system and filter out plankton from the water by using their pores to meet their nutrition needs.

3.2. What is the Habitat of Chicken Liver Sponge?

Chicken liver sponges can adapt to different habitats. They can be found in both sunny ocean stretches as well as inside dark caves. In terms of depth, they can survive at both surface levels and in the deep oceans.

3.3. Do Sponges have Organs?

No. They are relatively primitive beings with a multicellular composition. They have individual cells that help them with sensory functions.

3.4. How Long Do Sponges Live?

Sponges can survive for several hundred years and have a robust life span.

For more awesome content from us at What Are Cnidarians? Facts About 4 Amazing Species

  1. Wang, Bo, Alexia Johnson, and Wuwei Li. “Development of an extracellular matrix‐enriched gelatin sponge for liver wound dressing.” Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A 108.10 (2020): 2057-2068. ↩︎
  2. Dodd, J. M. “2 Reproduction in Cartilaginous Fishes (Chondrichthyes).” Fish physiology. Vol. 9. Academic Press, 1983. 31-95. ↩︎
  3. Thomsen, M. S., and K. McGlathery. “Effects of accumulations of sediments and drift algae on recruitment of sessile organisms associated with oyster reefs.” Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 328.1 (2006): 22-34. ↩︎
  4. Klautau, Michelle, et al. “Does cosmopolitanism result from overconservative systematics? A case study using the marine sponge Chondrilla nucula.” Evolution 53.5 (1999): 1414-1422. ↩︎
  5. Pedersen, Maggie Campbell. Tortoiseshell. The Crowood Press, 2021. ↩︎

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