Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Breath of Fresh Water

The marine sponge is one of the oldest multicelluar animal, with an incredibly simple design. Its hollow body is lined with cells that bear flagallae, whose motion keeps water circulating so that the sponge can be supplied with constant food particles. This is called filter feeding. Sponges grow attached to the floor, lack central nervous systems, and act more like plants than animals... which is probably why we don't feel too bad about using their bodies as shower lufas and boat deck scrubbers.

one particularly adorable sea sponge enjoying a meal (Canada, east coast)
As I tried to think of an example of biomimicry, I noticed how clean and clear the water in my fish tank is. It's only a 10-gallon, so without my filter it wouldn't take long to get dirty. The filter is comprised of a tube that vacuums water up and through a charcoal cartridge, and the strained water falls back into the tank.  While there aren't any oil spills or toxic chemicals drifting about in my apartment that I'm aware of, my fish are healthy because of the filter system. The impurities that would be harmful are collected in the cartridge yet the tank retains and builds onto its own miniature ecosystem of algae (which keeps the snail happy) and the fish's thin surrounding layers that protect them from illness. Oh, and I'm able to actually see my fish. Yeah filters!

the new super species of marine sponge could come in a variety of colors and shapes, just like normal marine sponges

What if you took what we know about the sea sponge and what we know about the cleanliness of our oceans? I'm purposing genetically modifying a type of sponge to produce a super species that is capable of breaking down hydrocarbons and using them for energy. In a way, the harmful products in the oceans that are life-threatening to every other animal could be a food source for this new sponge. After the sponge has proven to be self-sufficient and thriving on a toxic food source, this kind would be introduced to the problem areas under the sea: dirty harbors, suffering coral reefs, and oil spills. Because sponges reproduce by budding, it wouldn't need constant upkeep or human involvement beyond introduction. Let's assume the sponges thrive off garbage, chemicals, and oil. If they run out of these things and die off, their job is done. They'll have served their lives as beautiful accents to the ocean floor while improving the environment for the underwater world.

Ashley Overholser

No comments:

Post a Comment