Sea sponges (Porifera) use different types of skeletons to support their structures. Some skeletons are built from minerals, some are built from proteins like spongin, and some use both.

My question is about spongin. What is the benefit of having a skeleton made exclusively of spongin? (What advantages does it have compared to other types of skeletons?)

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    $\begingroup$ Although I didn't get pin point answer, it may be for following reasons.Spongin is a collagen protein.Collagen proteins are usually found in places where elasticity/flexibility is required but not compromising with strength.These collagens provide rigidity (strength) but also some sort of flexibility. You know these poriferans live under high pressure of water (rigidity is essential) and also flexible enough to allow water (some wavy motion to body) in between for getting some food and dissipating wastes. $\endgroup$
    – Science123
    Jul 25 '19 at 12:17
  • $\begingroup$ Sponges are more brittle and don't adopt the same shapes without spongin, which has mechanical and other advantages. books.google.fr/… $\endgroup$ Jul 29 '19 at 11:27

If you have ever used a natural bath sponge, you know that the structure of a sponge's spongin skeleton is great for absorbing water and squeezing that water back out. The sponge's skeleton contains millions of tiny holes, all connected in a massive network of internal tunnels, through which the sponge takes in food and eliminates waste. It feeds by use of cells that wave tiny cilia to push water into the sponge. Nutrients are absorbed by the animal and spent water and waste are expelled by the help of similar cells, spinning their flagella to force the water out of the sponge. A third class of cells, comprising a basic immune system, move around the organism engulfing microbes potentially dangerous to the animal.

This unique system is facilitated by the structure of the spongin skeleton. The skeleton needs to be strong enough to retain this complicated microstructure, while also having enough give and flexibility that its network of delicate tunnels don't buckle under the force of water pressure, deep currents, or fish and other matter bumping against it. Notice that, when you squeeze the water out of a sponge, it snaps back into place, the tunnels still open for business. Given that these tunnels are how the sponge eats, this is very important. To build a complex tunnel system with millions of tiny little tubes running through it out of something hard and brittle would make it very easy for tunnels to collapse, cracks to form, and other damage to be sustained. Some sponges, as you mention, have hard, brittle "spicules" in addition to the spongin, but these sponges tend to live in deeper regions and need extra strength to deal with the pressure.


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