Science teacher John N. Clayton was walking along the dock in Tarpon Springs, Florida, when he came upon a boat where police were arresting several young men. The charge against them was illegally collecting sponges in the Gulf of Mexico. One of the men protested his arrest to an officer by saying, “Come on, it’s just a sponge! What good are they?”
The truth of the matter is that sponges are very marvelous creations. There are over 5,000 species of sponges that inhabit both fresh and salt water. In recent years compounds derived from sponges have turned out to be useful in cancer-fighting drugs and in medicines that help prevent the rejection of transplanted organs. More important is what sponges do for the oceans, lakes and even rivers where they grow. They can be found from the polar regions to the tropical regions, but they are most abundant in warm waters.
Sponges are animals, although they may look more like plants. They come in many different colors and they have tough skin, sharp spicules, and rows of polyps. Contrary to popular belief, sponges can sometimes move, although very slowly, perhaps a millimeter per day. A sponge will take several hundred gallons of water per day into its chamber using whip-like flagella to make a strong current. The sponge filters this water, removing 90% of the bacteria. It is the bacterial that the sponge eats, returning the cleansed water to the outside. The beautiful, clear water seen in many places in the world is due to a great extent to the sponges that clean it.
“What good is a sponge?” It is an exquisitely designed, essential part of the water world we all depend on and enjoy. That design is a reflection of the wisdom of the Designer.
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