Below you’ll see examples of sponges I’ve encountered on the surf-swept shores of the northern Oregon coast. Field guides and online resources (see References, at the bottom of this page) help with identification of the common rocky intertidal sponges, but all of them tell us identification is going to be tough for non-experts; microscopic examination of the spicules may be needed. Thus, any identifications I give are tentative and open to interpretation.

My organization more or less follows Lamb and Hanby (2005). Common names are my choice. I refer to WoRMS for scientific names, the World Porifera Database if I want more information, and I learn a ton by browsing the natural history riches in Kozloff (1993). All photos are from northern Oregon unless otherwise noted in the caption.

Let’s enjoy sponges!

Isodictya rigida, orange finger sponge

I encountered this one among sea wrack. Mine’s a tentative ID, but the common name works for me.

Orange finger sponge in the drift line
Washed ashore in a mass of drift macroalgae

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Halichondria panicea, yellow-green encrusting sponge

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Does it smell like spent gunpowder?

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Haliclona, purple encrusting sponge

I feel like most people on the west coast refer to this beautiful intertidal sponge as Haliclona permollis, or they’re ambivalent. And that’s part of the fun.

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Velvety red sponge, Clathria pennata- Red intertidal sponges are difficult to tell apart. Most of the guides suggest a close connection between C. pennata and the red sponge nudibranch, Rostanga pulchra. There were nudibranchs and their eggs on these patches, so I’ll assume this is C. pennata.

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Note circular egg ribbons from the red sponge nudibranch, Rostanga pulchra at the lower left and upper right

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Red encrusting sponge- This could be velvety red sponge, but there are other possibilities. What about bright red sponge, Antho karykina? Could also be red volcano sponge, Acarnus erithacus; looks like some mini volcanoes. If you have ideas, please let me know.

A bright red sponge surrounded by aggregating anemones, exposed at low tide
If it’s bright red and produces mucous when touched it could be Antho karykina

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Yellow sponge?- I think this is a sponge, but I don’t find much similar to this in the guides I consult. If you know what it is, please let me know.

A smooth yellow possible sponge exposed in the low in the low intertidal
A low intertidal sponge?

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From the drift line- This one arrived in the drift line in a mass of drift macroalgae.

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A subtidal sponge

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References

Harbo, R. M. 2011. Whelks to Whales: Coastal Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest. 2nd ed. Harbour Publishing Co.

Kozloff, E. N. 1993. Seashore Life of the Northern Pacific Coast. 3rd ed. University of Washington Press.

Lamb, A. and B. P. Hanby. 2005. Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest. Harbour Publishing.

Sept. J. D. 2009. The Beachcomber’s Guide to Seashore Life in the Pacific Northwest. Revised ed. Harbour Publishing.

Online Resources

Biodiversity of the Central Coast’s Sponges page

Friends of Netarts Bay WEBS Sponges page

World Porifera Database

iNaturalist’s pages on worms are full of good browsing material. Here are some I looked at while preparing this page:

Haliclona cinerea


This page was slightly updated May 9, 2020