Some large marine sponges, such as the barrel sponge Xestospongia muta, can live for hundreds of years. But when dislodged from the reefs they inhabit by storms, ship groundings or fishing lines, these organisms have little chance of reattaching naturally. Steven McMurray and Joseph Pawlik of the University of North Carolina in Wilmington have stumbled across a new method of reattaching them that could be useful in conservation efforts.
The duo skewered sponges with two perpendicular steel rods, then secured the rods to bases made from PVC piping, concrete and mesh that had been nailed to the reef's limestone bed (pictured). The method, designed for temporary experiments, surprised the researchers by helping half of the 40 transplanted sponges to reattach, despite three passing hurricanes. The apparatus was removed once attachment was complete.