Giant barrel sponges are some of the largest animals on Florida’s coral reefs. Like corals, these giant sponges synchronize the release of eggs and sperm. Our researchers caught Barrel Sponge Spawning in the act. These barrel sponges are “broadcast spawners” because they release eggs and sperm into the water column. The fertilized eggs develop into larvae that travel with the currents for up to a couple of days, and then these larvae settle to the seafloor and become new barrel sponges.
Barrel sponges are presumed to live hundreds of years and are referred to as the redwoods of the reef due to their size. Barrel sponges provide homes to many animals and filter massive amounts of seawater. There is still much to learn about barrel sponges, including how they coordinate the synchronous release of these eggs and sperm.