Sponges Are Behind Evolution, Apparently: In The Beginning, There Was The Sea Sponge
So weird, it might just be true: Sea sponges could've been the key to evolution. In a recent study by England's University of Exeter, researchers discovered that before the Earth became oxygenated, sea sponges existed — and it was thanks to those sea sponges that oxygenation happened. All other species that later evolved came as a result of said oxygenation, according to the study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience. We'd like to offer to rename Charles Darwin's On The Origin of Species something along the lines of Behold, Sponges.
Some backstory: While ocean surface waters had had oxygen for 1.5 billion years before animals evolved, the deep ocean didn't. The study found that sea sponges need very little oxygen, which is why the researchers have concluded that the Earth's first sponges could have oxygenated the deep ocean. This is where more species ultimately evolved, before they eventually evolved onto land.
The study's lead author, Professor Tim Lenton of University of Exeter, said in a press release:
There had been enough oxygen in ocean surface waters for over 1.5 billion years before the first animals evolved, but the dark depths of the ocean remained devoid of oxygen. We argue that the evolution of the first animals could have played a key role in the widespread oxygenation of the deep oceans. This in turn may have facilitated the evolution of more complex, mobile animals.
More reason to love Spongebob.
Further research needs to be done, since this study hasn't definitively concluded sponges are the cause of evolution. Still, it's a step forward in our knowledge about sponges, and, more importantly, evolution.
Well... maybe. We've still got a long way to go toward getting Texas and other states onto the evolution bandwagon.