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Canada: Home to deep-sea corals and sponges

Deep-sea corals and sponges help keep all three of Canada’s oceans healthy. Find out how Fisheries and Oceans Canada is using science to better understand and protect them.


What are corals and sponges?

They are animals, which are creatures that live at the bottom of the ocean.

Corals come in many shapes and sizes, and some have hard outer shells. They are relatives of jellyfish.

Sponges are also animals. Most sponges have softer bodies that are usually covered in small openings, just like the sponge in your kitchen.

Where can you find them?

Corals and sponges are found on all 3 of Canada’s oceans.

Corals and sponges live on the seafloor at depths between 8 metres and 28 kilometres deep. That’s over 50 CN towers deep.

What do they look like?

They look unique. Just like people, corals and sponges can be many different shapes, sizes and colours.

How big are they?

They come in difference sizes. Some are only a few millimetres high and others can be over 7 feet tall.

When many corals and sponges grow together, they can form reefs.

Some reefs can be as tall as an 8-storey building, like the glass sponge reefs off the coast of British Columbia.

These reefs are over 9,000 years old. Made of many generations of sponges growing on top of one another.

This type of sponge existed when dinosaurs roamed the earth. They’re like living fossils.

Corals and sponges aren’t just beautiful to look at. They help keep our oceans healthy.

Water filtration: They eat bacteria in the water and help clean our oceans.

Refuges: They act as homes for many ocean animals that live on or near them.

Nurseries: Because they make such great homes, many species breed and raise their young in them.

Biodiversity: A reef can attract many species making it a home to a complex ecosystem, a diverse community of marine life.

Corals and sponges do a lot for our oceans and the species that live in them. That’s why we’re protecting them.

But to protect them, we need to understand them.

We’re using science to find and study corals and sponges.

Here are some of the ways we’re learning more about them.

Robots: We send remotely operated vehicles to see deep beneath the waves. They take pictures and video, and can even collect samples for us to study.

Hydrography: Similar to how bats see, we use sound to make a picture of the bottom of the ocean. This is called sonar.

Oceanography: We measure how salty, cold and acidic ocean water is to see if it makes a good home for corals, sponges and other animals.

Genetics: We collect sea water samples and look for environmental DNA, found in the traces animals and plants leave behind. These tiny particles give us big clues as to what’s living on the seafloor.

Corals and sponges help keep our oceans healthy.

Canada is lucky to be home to corals and sponges.

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