A deep sponge-covered wall of a Meso-American reef (colors inverted).

Ocean Art, a Gift from the Poriferans

Words and images by W Goodwin

Every time I descend into the sea, I ask myself, “Am I dreaming?” The shapes and colors, subtle and subdued one moment, exuberant and boisterous the next, suggest paintings by Dali or some artistic Drama Queen. It was some time before I realized all the extravagant forms, the gales of hues and the sensual parades of sea life are dependent upon sponges.

Sponges, the sessile creatures of the phylum Porifera, arrived here from an ancient world. They are survivors of the Precambrian seas and the only animals to contribute parts of their DNA sequences to every other animal now living below and above the water. Sponges exert their ancestral pull on the molecular tides of all animal life, including humans.

Sponge science is important, and since two of the most fundamental elements of science are beauty and wonder, it is worth our while to look at the amazing art that is sponge life.

Bound to the ocean and reflecting mixed genetics, I am compelled to write about the sea while living in Colorado.

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