Sea sponge the size of a minivan discovered in ocean depths off Hawaii
Researchers believe the creature found by scientists 2,100m below the surface of the ocean is the largest of its kind ever documented
Scientists on a deep-sea expedition in the waters off Hawaii have discovered what they say is the worlds largest known sponge.
The creature, roughly the size of a minivan, was discovered about 2,100m (7,000ft) down in a marine conservation area off the shores of the north-western Hawaiian -islands. The rare sponge, with a bluish-white colour and brain-like appearance, stunned scientists when it appeared in the remote cameras attached to their underwater rover.
Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Hawaii studied the sponge for about a year before releasing their findings.
The largest portion of our planet lies in deep waters, the vast majority of which has never been explored, said Daniel Wagner, an NOAA researcher who specialises in the waters of the Papahanaumokuakea national marine park. Finding such an enormous and presumably old sponge emphasises how much can be learned from studying deep and pristine environments.
A study published this week in the scientific journal Marine Biodiversity described the massive creature.
The Papahanaumokuakea marine park, which is the largest protected conservation area in the United States and one of the largest in the world, is bigger than all the other US national parks combined.
Christopher Kelley, program biologist at the NOAAs Hawaii undersea research lab, who helped lead the expedition with Wagner, said the crew captured images of the sponge with remote underwater cameras that were positioned above their research vehicle.
They then used laser points to measure parts of the sponge and also carefully measured the vehicle and compared those dimensions to the images they had of the sponge and vehicle together to determine its size.