November 20, 2002 | David F. Coppedge

Sponges Use Fiber Optics for Interior Lighting

51; Sponges are among the simplest of multicellular organisms, but they contain an advanced human technology: fiber optics.  In a case of reverse biomimetics, scientists have determined that one of the products of proud human engineering was already at work in a lowly sponge.
    Fiber optical properties of sponge spicules was already known, as in the case of the Venus flower basket sponge (04/05/2006, 07/08/2005, 03/01/2004).  But that was found by transmitting laser light along the spicules of dead sponges.  Now, reported Science Daily, Italian scientists have demonstrated that living sponges indeed transduce light with their spicules.  This presumably provides illumination into their dark interiors where photosynthetic organisms harvest the light to produce energy.
    A photo accompanying the article shows fibers grouped into bundles that widen into trumpet shapes on the exterior.  These appear to gather as much light as possible to funnel inside.

A spicule is a small, needle-like crystal.  I expect you’ll agree it’s peculiar that spicules pick Yule colors to transmit.  Find spicule four times in the previous sentence.

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