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.
Halichondria panicea, yellow-green encrusting sponge
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.
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.
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.
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.
From the drift line- This one arrived in the drift line in a mass of drift macroalgae.
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.
Biodiversity of the Central Coast’s Sponges page
Friends of Netarts Bay WEBS Sponges page
iNaturalist’s pages on worms are full of good browsing material. Here are some I looked at while preparing this page:
This page was slightly updated May 9, 2020