Venus’ Flower Basket

The Venus’ flower basket is a deep ocean sponge with fascinating properties and an unusual symbiotic relationship with a pair of shrimp.

The Venus’ flower basket is called a glass sponge because its body is made of silica, which is chemically the same as glass. The sponge is attached to the ocean floor by glassy fibers that are thinner than a human hair. These fibers are more flexible and tougher than human-made optical fibers. They are also formed at ocean temperatures while human-made glass fibers require high-temperature furnaces to melt the glass. Because of these properties, scientists are studying these sponges to find ways to make better fiber-optic cables. The Venus’ flower basket lights the fibers using bioluminescence to attract prey.

Even more interesting to us is the symbiotic relationship these sponges have with some shrimp. Two small shrimp, one male, and one female are held captive inside the hollow mesh tube of the sponge. The captive shrimp clean the flower basket by eating the small organisms attracted by the sponge’s light tubes and any waste the sponge leaves. The sponge gives protection to the shrimp. As the shrimp spawn, their offspring are small enough to escape from the basket and find their own sponge-home where they grow until they are trapped. Because a pair of shrimp spend their lives together inside the sponge, in Asian cultures a dried Venus’ flower basket is sometimes used as a wedding gift to symbolize “till death do us part.

The Venus’ flower basket and the shrimp benefit each other by mutual cooperation which we call symbiosis. We think this is another evidence of Divine design, not chance mutations.
© Roland Earnst

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