A mysterious disease is sweeping through the barrel sponges off Broward and Palm Beach counties, killing off iconic reef species that can live for hundreds of years and grow to a height of five feet.
Divers from the environmental group Reef Rescue first encountered the diseased sponges off
"Barrel sponge mortality is not unusual, we see these sponges die on a regular basis, just never to this extent", said Ed Tichenor, director of Reef Rescue. "Generally, what we see is a random sponge or two dying, but never anything like this. In less than two weeks we have watched these sponges literally disintegrate before our eyes."