Antique Venus flower basket on custom made stand.
This is either an old museum specimen or would have belonged to a collector as the sponge skeleton is mounted on an ebonised base.
The Venus Flower Basket Euplectella aspergillum is a glass sponge that lives in the cold deep waters of the Pacific at depths of 10 to1000m. They use the high silica levels in these waters to build a strong but delicate vase shaped silica skeleton. When the animal dies, the skeleton remains. They are also home to a species of symbiotic shrimp. A pair of shrimps will settle inside the growing sponge. As the sponge grows it seals the shrimps inside the hollow centre. The shrimps clean the sponge and in return the sponge provides nutrition for the shrimps. When the shrimps breed, the microscopic larvae escape through pores in the structure. Eventually the shrimps die and in many cases their dried exoskeletons are found inside the dried sponge. The remains of a shrimp can be seen inside this specimen. This tragic love affair between the shrimps is why the flower baskets are traditionally given as a wedding gift in some Asian cultures.
You have to look at these closely to fully appreciate their true beauty. The natural growth and construction of the silica skeleton is a combination of beauty in form and function. The intricate arrangement of the silica threads and spicules give the whole structure great strength, the design of which has been adapted for use in sky scrapers. The silica fibres are incredibly strong for their thickness and also act as fibreoptics, transmitting light into the structure and seabed. Unfortunately, my photographic skills are not good enough to show these off to their true extent but in close up they truly are breathtaking.
This sponge specimen is in great condition and is mounted on a purpose made metal stand on an ebonised base. The total length of the sponge is approximately 27cm and stands 35cm high on the stand. There is also the remnants of a shrimp still trapped inside this specimen. Looking at the construction, I think that the stand is early to mid 20th century. It is not surprising that these have long been a favourite among collectors back to Victorian times.