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On an underwater mountain in the Arctic Ocean lives a community of sponges with a ghoulish secret. With little to eat in the nutrient-poor water, the sponges survive by digesting the remains of long-dead animals that once inhabited the seamount peaks where the sponges now live. And they’ve been feasting on their extinct neighbors’ corpses for centuries.

Scientists recently discovered these macabre creatures on the Langseth Ridge, part of a former volcanic seamount in the Central Arctic, at depths of 1,640 to 1,969 feet (500 to 600 meters) where temperatures hover just above freezing. In those icy depths, researchers found thousands of sponges covering an area measuring 5.8 square miles (15 square kilometers).

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