Taxonomy Tuesday: Fan Sponge

Taxonomy Tuesday: Fan Sponge

A fan sponge and nudibranch (Image: SERTC)

A fan sponge and nudibranch (Image: SERTC)

Think this brilliant tangerine would catch your eye underwater?

That’s the point for many brightly colored sponges like this fan sponge, which ward off potential predators by advertising their toxicity with vivid hues. But look closer at this image, and you’ll see one predator that doesn’t mind the colors and chemicals in sponges.

The orange ball in the center of this fan sponge is actually a kind of sea slug called a nudibranch. Nudibranchs have evolved to take advantage of the toxins in the sponges they eat, recycling the chemicals into a homegrown defense system. 

This specimen was collected off the coast of Sapelo Island, Georgia and photographed by the Southeastern Regional Taxonomic Center (SERTC) at SCDNR’s Marine Resources Center.

See more images from SERTC's collections here.

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