Comments on a skeleton design paradigm for a demosponge

Y. Aluma, M. Ilan*, D. Sherman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ball-shaped marine sponge Cinachyrella levantinensis is 3-5cm in diameter. It filters large quantities of seawater for feeding. Sponges contain numerous, hydrated, brittle amorphous SiO 2 spicules of several types that form 70-80% by weight of the sponge. We performed mechanical tests to determine the functionality of the sponge skeleton. The potential effect of habitat on skeleton properties was investigated by comparing sponges from 0.5m and 30m depth. We determined how spicules contribute to maintaining the strength and macroscopic structural integrity of a sponge, and studied their deformation mechanisms under external loading, and their microscopic design parameters.Compression tests of cylindrical samples cut from sponges revealed their macroscopic deformation mechanisms. Experiments solely with the organic material (following spicules dissolution) revealed the contribution of the spicules to the load carrying capacity and structural integrity of the sponge. Cantilever bending tests of anchored spicules determined the strength of individual spicules, the sponge's main skeletal elements. As the strength of brittle spicules is statistical in nature, we used Weibull Statistics to define their strength and evaluate their Young's modulus.Shallow and deep-water sponges did not differ significantly neither in response to compression, nor in spicule strength under bending and tension. Spicule weight fraction within a sponge was significantly higher in shallow-water individuals.We conclude that the structural integrity and strength of this sponge's skeleton is derived from its low-strength, small spicules, produced by a cost-effective process. The operating deformation of the spicules (bending) and their design parameters make them highly efficient.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-424
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Structural Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Porifera
  • Silica
  • Spicule
  • Statistical strength
  • Structural integrity
  • Young's modulus


Dive into the research topics of 'Comments on a skeleton design paradigm for a demosponge'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this