This Might Be the World’s Largest Known Sea Sponge, Discovered Off Hawai‘i Waters

Watch mesmerizing footage of the recent discovery within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.


This past summer, a team of scientists discovered a gigantic sea sponge the size of a minivan. In a report released last week, those scientists say they believe the 12-foot-by-7-foot sponge might be the largest known sponge in the world. 


The team encountered the massive sponge during a deep-sea expedition aboard the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer, while exploring about 7,000 feet below the surface within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.


“Holy guacamole!” one of the scientist exclaims in the video. “Look at the size of this thing! That, by far, is probably the biggest sponge I have ever seen.”


The sponge exceeded the dimensions of the largest sponge reported in literature. The largest dimensions previously reported belonged to a colony of Aphrocallistes vastus Schulze discovered in the shallow waters off western Canada, measuring roughly 11 feet by 6 1/2 feet. NOAA scientists recently published their findings in the scientific journal Marine Biodiversity


“Finding such an enormous and presumably old sponge emphasizes how much can be learned from studying deep and pristine environments such as those found in the remote Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument,” says research specialist Daniel Wagner, who is also the science lead of the expedition with NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.


Scientists say some massive species of sponges are also found in shallow waters, and could live for more than 2,300 years. The report also highlights how the deepest parts of the oceans remain largely unexplored.


This discovery off Hawaiian waters is not the first to make headlines this year. In March, scientists came across a new species of octopus that looked like Casper the ghost. 


Read More Stories by Diane Lee