Redwoods of the Reef: Giant Barrel Sponges of Cozumel, Mexico
Giant barrel sponges are filter feeders and can grow to enormous sizes on the reefs of Cozumel, reaching sizes up to 6 feet tall and wide. While they are sponges, the giant barrel sponge is actually quite hard. They rarely grow in perfectly barrel shapes in Cozumel due to the prevailing currents; on the reefs that are exposed to the fastest currents, like Punta Tunich, many of these sponges appear to be “wind swept.”
Did you know that giant barrel sponges can live for up to 2,000 years???
Between April and May, usually corresponding to a full moon, the giant barrel sponges, Xestospongia muta, begin to spawn in Cozumel. In what looks a bit like a foam party, the female giant barrel sponges release their eggs into the current where they will (hopefully) mix with the sperm being released by the male giant barrel sponges. The male release looks a bit like a smokestack.
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