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In the children’s cartoon “Spongebob Squarepants,” the titular character becomes ill in one episode and starts sneezing bubbles.
It turns out that sneezing sea sponges are not fictional, according to Cosmos magazine.
In a new study, scientists closely monitored the Caribbean stovepipe sponge to understand why such sneezing occurs.
Sneezing in sea sponges is not new: Unlike humans, the marine creatures filter water not air and their sneezes can take about half an hour, the Guardian noted.
Still, researchers noted that sternutation serves as a “waste disposal” mechanism in both species.
The team wrote that sponges filter out particles they can use for food when they suck in water. But it happens that they sometimes inhale in bigger particles which causes water inlets in the sponge’s tissue to release mucus.
This mucus-rich material is subsequently ejected outside as the sponge contracts and expands.
Researchers added that surrounding fish would then eat these expelled particles, noting that the sponges play an important role in providing food.
“There’s many critters that probably would crave a bit of sponge snot,” lead author Jasper de Goeij.
De Goeij and his colleagues, however, suggested that there are still questions surrounding this waste disposal system, such as what exactly triggers this sneezing and how common is it among sea sponges – one of the oldest multicellular creatures.
“Our findings highlight opportunities to better understand material cycling in some of the most ancient Metazoans”, they write in their paper.