Eupectella aspergillum (Venus' flower basket)

Euplectella aspergillum

Euplectella aspergillum, the full view.

Euplectella aspergillum or Venus' flower baskets are deep sea animals. They are known as glass sponges as their bodies are entirely composed of silica

The body structure of these animals is a tube that:

  • is thin-walled
  • is cylindrical
  • is vase-shaped
  • has a large central atrium

Glass sponges occur worldwide, predominantly at depths between 10 and 1000 metres (20-3,300 feet) where the water is very cold and the levels of silica are high.

Euplectella species are found in the deep Southern Pacific around the coast of Japan and Philippines and more recently new species have been found off Australia.

Species detail

History
Richard Owen

Euplectella aspergillum, Venus' flower basket, was first described by Richard Owen in 1841 in the Transactions of the Zoological Society.  

Richard Owen was the first Director of the Natural History Museum when it moved to South Kensington and the man who coined the term 'dinosaur'.

Richard Owen biography

 

  • Hexactinellae
    Taxonomy

    Euplectella aspergillum is a thin-walled, cylindrical, vase-shaped tube with a large central atrium. The body is composed entirely of silica in the form of 6-pointed siliceous spicules, which is why they are commonly known as glass sponges. Find out more about the form and function of this delicate-looking creature.

  • Euplectella aspergillum
    Habitat and distribution

    Euplectella aspergillum are marine animals found at depths of between 10 and 1000 metres where the water is very cold (2-11o C) and has high levels of dissolved silica. Find out more about where in the world these animals are found.

  • Euplectella aspergillum
    Behaviour and biology

    Sponges are individual animals not colonial like corals.They are filter feeders creating a current to draw water in through their tissues and filter out any small particles of food. Find out more about the habits and biology of the Venus' flower basket.

  • Euplectella aspergillum
    History

    Euplectella aspergillum are marine animals found at depths of between 10 and 1000 metres (20 -3,300 feet) where the water is very cold (32-52o F or 2-11o C) and has high levels of dissolved silica. Find out more about where in the world these animals are located.

  • Euplectella aspergillum
    Uses

    In Japan these sponges are given as good luck charms, like horseshoes, to couples getting married. Discover more about this tradition and the other uses for Venus' flower basket.

  • Euplectella sub
    References

    Get reference material Venus’ Flower-basket Euplectella aspergillum.

Images

Euplectella aspergillum

Euplectella aspergillum a bleached skeleton of the deep-water glass sponge held in the Museums collection it is the holotype first described by Sir Richard Owen in 1841.

Euplectella aspergillum

Euplectella aspergillum a bleached skeleton of the deep-water glass sponge held in the Museums collection it is the holotype first described by Sir Richard Owen in 1841.

Euplectella aspergillum

Glass sponge probably Euplectella suberea. Drawing made from several damaged specimens collected during The Voyage of H.M.S. Challenger (1872-1876) west of Gibraltar, between Pernambuco & Bahia, S. America. 

Euplectella aspergillum

Euplectella aspergillum illustration from 'Transactions of the Zoological Society', Vol 3, Part 2, 1841. Illustration on display in the Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum, London.

Euplectella aspergillum

A close up of the structure of Euplectella aspergillum Venus' flower basket. 

© Ryan M. Moody
Euplectella aspergillum

Euplectella aspergillum

©  Ryan M. Moody
Euplectella aspergillum

An illustration of Hexactinellae by Haeckel

About the author

Clare Valentine
Ms Clare Valentine

Head of Zoological and Microbial collections.

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Glossary

Conchologists is a person who studies the branch of zoology that deals with the study of molluscs, specifically their shells.

Type specimen is a specimen selected to serve as a reference point when a species is first named. As a result, these specimens are extremely important to scientists who are attempting to determine the correct application of a name.

Holotype is the single specimen which is used to define the characteristics for a new species by an author and is therefore designated as the type specimen by the author at the time of publication of that description.

Museum specimen in focus

Registration number: BMNH 1894.8.2.1 Holotype