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. It’s a tentative identification, 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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Of red encrusting sponges, there are plenty, Clathria, Axocielita, Antho, and Acarnus are all possible in the intertidal, and they can be hard to tell apart. I’m guessing some or all of the selection below are Clathria pennata, though some guides note that C. pennata is indistinguishable in the field from Axocielita originalis.

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Yellow sponge?- I think this splash of yellow 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 velvety beauty arrived in the drift line in a mass of drifted seaweed.

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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 sponges are full of good browsing material. Here are some I looked at while preparing this page:

Haliclona cinerea
Acarnus erithacus
Red Velvet Sponge


This page was slightly updated July 24, 2020