MarLIN

information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Yellow staghorn sponge (Axinella dissimilis)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.

Researched byAngus Jackson Refereed byThis information is not refereed.
Authority(Bowerbank, 1866)
Other common names- SynonymsAxinella polypoides Schmidt, 1862

Summary

Description

A medium sized, branching, finger-like sponge. Usually about 15 cm high and yellow / orange in colour. The branches are approximately oval and are rather irregular in diameter along their length, being typically around 1.5 cm. The sponge often branches in nearly the same plane forming a rough fan-shape. There is a short stem, rather thicker than the branches. The sponge surface has a velvety texture and is moderately firm but elastic.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Present at a few sites around Mull, the south west of England and the western extremities of Wales. In Ireland there are records from the south east, the south west, and along the Atlantic coast round to the north east.

Global distribution

South western British Isles, the Channel Isles, Atlantic coasts of France and Spain. Recorded also from Iceland.

Habitat

Axinella dissimilis is typically found in exposed open coasts, on upward facing bedrock or other hard surfaces in the circalittoral zone.

Depth range

? - 100+

Identifying features

  • A yellow / orange branching sponge about 15 cm in height.
  • Skeletal spicules give the surface a velvety texture.
  • Sponge surface cracks if bent more than 90 °C.
  • A number of short, shallow grooves radiate from the oscula.

Additional information

Axinella polypoides is still used by some authors (e.g. Hayward and Ryland, 1995). However, Axinella polypoides is now considered to be a separate species confined to the Mediterranean (Howson & Picton, 1997). Axinella dissimilis may be confused with other branching sponges e.g. Stelligera stuposa and Raspailia hispida. However the relatively thicker branches and grooves surrounding the oscula are distinguishing features.

Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

Search on:

NBN WoRMS

Biology review

Taxonomy

PhylumPoriferaSponges
ClassDemospongiaeSiliceous sponges
OrderHalichondrida
FamilyAxinellidae
GenusAxinella
Authority(Bowerbank, 1866)
Recent SynonymsAxinella polypoides Schmidt, 1862

Biology

Typical abundanceModerate density
Male size rangeup to 15cmMale size at maturity
Female size rangeMedium(11-20 cm)Female size at maturity
Growth formFan-likeGrowth rateNo information found
Body flexibilityHigh (greater than 45 degrees)Mobility
Characteristic feeding methodActive suspension feeder, No information
Diet/food source
Typically feeds onSuspended particulate matter.
Sociability Environmental positionEpibenthic
DependencyNo information found.
SupportsNo information found
Is the species harmful?Data deficient

Biology information

Size range refers to height. There is no information detailing whether the sexes are separate. Although elastic and flexible the surface of the sponge cracks if bent more than 90° (Moss & Ackers 1982). There is no information regarding the toxicity of this species.

Habitat preferences

Physiographic preferencesOpen coast, Offshore seabed
Biological zone preferencesLower circalittoral, Lower infralittoral, Upper circalittoral
Substratum / habitat preferencesBedrock, Large to very large boulders
Tidal strength preferences
Wave exposure preferencesExposed, Extremely exposed, Moderately exposed, Very exposed
Salinity preferencesFull (30-40 psu)
Depth range? - 100+
Other preferencesNo text entered
Migration PatternNon-migratory / resident

Habitat Information

Konnecker (1977) also records Axinella dissimilis as an offshore species found on rock patches surrounded by shell gravel or coarse sand. In the Channel Islands, Brittany and Lough Hyne, Co. Cork the species also occurs on infralittoral bedrock (Picton & Costello, 1997). The sponge is recorded from depths of at least 100 m (Cabioch, 1968)

Life history

Adult characteristics

Reproductive type No information Reproductive frequency No information
Fecundity (number of eggs) No information Generation time Insufficient information
Age at maturity Insufficient information Season Insufficient information
Life span Insufficient information

Larval characteristics

Larval/propagule type - Larval/juvenile development No information
Duration of larval stage No information Larval dispersal potential No information
Larval settlement period Insufficient information

Life history information

No information is available regarding the longevity or reproductive mechanism of this species.

Sensitivity reviewHow is sensitivity assessed?

Physical pressures

 IntoleranceRecoverabilitySensitivityEvidence/Confidence
High No information High High
The species is permanently attached to the substratum. Substratum loss would result in the entire population. No information is available regarding the reproduction or dispersal abilities of this species so no assessment of recoverability can be made. Most sponges however, tend to be slow growing and long lived.
Intermediate No information High Low
Axinella dissimilis is an upright branching sponge up to 15 cm in height. Smothering by 5 cm of sediment may cover or damage some individuals of the population. No information is available regarding the reproduction or dispersal abilities of this species so no assessment of recoverability can be made. Most sponges however, tend to be slow growing and long lived.
Intermediate No information High Low
Sponges are active particulate suspension feeders. Increases in deposition of suspended sediment may interfere with feeding, clogging pores and channels etc. Many sponges have cleaning mechanisms for dealing with siltation such as sloughing of outer cells or mucus production. No information is available regarding the reproduction or dispersal abilities of this species so no assessment of recoverability can be made. Most sponges however, tend to be slow growing and long lived.
No information
High No information High Low
The species inhabits the lower infralittoral and circalittoral zones and as such is never exposed to the air. Desiccation, although unlikely, would probably result in death. No information is available regarding the reproduction or dispersal abilities of this species so no assessment of recoverability can be made. Most sponges however, tend to be slow growing and long lived.
High No information High Low
The species inhabits the lower infralittoral and circalittoral zones and as such is never subject to an emergence regime. Emergence, although unlikely, would probably result in death. No information is available regarding the reproduction or dispersal abilities of this species so no assessment of recoverability can be made. Most sponges however, tend to be slow growing and long lived.
No information
Low No information Moderate Low
Axinella dissimilis inhabits rocky, wave exposed areas where water flow rate is potentially high. The species has an upright branching growth form protruding up in to water column. Large increases in water flow rate may interfere with the posture of the animal, cause physical damage. Reductions in water flow rate may affect feeding efficiency. No information is available regarding growth rates or recovery from physical damage. The cellular level of organisation in Porifera facilitates regeneration.
No information
Intermediate No information High Low
There is no available information about the tolerance of Axinella dissimilis to changes in temperature. In the British Isles it has a mainly southern and western distribution. The species is found in warmer waters as far south as Spain. It is replaced in the Mediterranean by the very similar species, Axinella polypoides (Howson & Picton, 1997). Long term increases in temperature may cause extension of the British Isles populations and decreases in temperature may result in population shrinkage. Short term acute changes in temperature may also cause death. No information is available regarding the reproduction or dispersal abilities of this species so no assessment of recoverability can be made. Most sponges however, tend to be slow growing and long lived.
No information
Tolerant No information Not sensitive High
The species has no ability for visual perception hence it is tolerant to changes in light penetration and attenuation. It is found at depths of at least 100 m (Cabioch, 1968) where light levels are low.
No information
Intermediate No information High Very low
Axinella dissimilis lives in wave exposed areas. Decreases in wave exposure may result in conditions outside the preferred range of the species and may cause shrinkage in population distribution. No information is available regarding the reproduction or dispersal abilities of this species so no assessment of recoverability can be made. Most sponges however, tend to be slow growing and long lived.
No information
Tolerant No information Not sensitive Low
It is unlikely that the species has any facility for detection of noise vibrations
Tolerant No information Not sensitive High
The species has no ability for visual perception hence it is not sensitive to visual disturbance. It is found at depths of at least 100 m (Cabioch, 1968) where light levels are low.
Intermediate No information High Low
The species is quite elastic and flexible (Moss & Ackers, 1982). However, if the sponge is bent more than 90 ° the surface will crack. The sponge branches upright into the water column. Abrasion may physically damage or dislodge the sponge. No information is available regarding the reproduction or dispersal abilities of this species so no assessment of recoverability can be made. Most sponges however, tend to be slow growing and long lived.
High No information High Low
The species is permanently attached to the substratum. It is unlikely to be able to reform this attachment if displaced. No information is available regarding the reproduction or dispersal abilities of this species so no assessment of recoverability can be made. Most sponges however, tend to be slow growing and long lived.

Chemical pressures

 IntoleranceRecoverabilitySensitivityEvidence/Confidence
No information No information No information Not relevant
Insufficient
information
Heavy metal contamination
No information No information No information Not relevant
Insufficient
information
Hydrocarbon contamination
No information No information No information Not relevant
Insufficient
information
Radionuclide contamination
No information No information No information Not relevant
Insufficient
information
Changes in nutrient levels
No information No information No information Not relevant
Insufficient
information
High No information High Low
The species inhabits open coasts and off-shore areas where salinity is likely to be full. Decreases in salinity will result in conditions outside the preferred range for the species, probably causing death..
No information
Intermediate No information High Low
There is no information regarding the tolerance of Axinella dissimilis to changes in oxygen concentration. However, Cole et al., (1999) suggest possible adverse effects on marine species below 4 mg/l and probable adverse effects below 2mg/l. No information is available regarding the reproduction or dispersal abilities of this species so no assessment of recoverability can be made. Most sponges however, tend to be slow growing and long lived.

Biological pressures

 IntoleranceRecoverabilitySensitivityEvidence/Confidence
No information No information No information Not relevant
Insufficient
information
No information No information No information Not relevant
Insufficient
information
Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant Low
As this sponge species has no current commercial, culinary or research value, it is unlikely that it will be exploited and extracted.
Tolerant No information Not sensitive Very low
Axinella dissimilis has no known obligate relationships so the loss of other species is unlikely to have an impact.

Additional information

Importance review

Policy/legislation

- no data -

Status

National (GB) importance-Global red list (IUCN) category-

Non-native

Native-
Origin- Date Arrived-

Importance information

Axinella dissimilis may occur amongst quite dense assemblages of animals but there is no information regarding actual abundances (Cabioch, 1968). Many sponges provide shelter for small organisms such as shrimps but there are no records of such with Axinella dissimilis.

Bibliography

  1. Bowerbank, J.S., 1865. A monograph of the British Spongiadae, vol. II. London: Ray Society.

  2. Cabioch, L., 1968. Contribution a la connaissance des peuplements benthiques de la Manche occidentale. Cahiers de Biologie Marine, 9, 493 - 720.

  3. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  4. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line] http://www.jncc.gov.uk/mermaid

  5. Konnecker, G., 1973. Littoral and benthic investigations on the west coast of Ireland - I. Section A: Faunistic and Ecological Studies. The sponge fauna of Kilkieran Bay and adjacent area. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 73(B), 451 - 472.

  6. Moss, D., & Ackers, G. (eds.), 1982. The UCS Sponge Guide. Produced by R. Earll. Ross-on-Wye: The Underwater Conservation Society.

  7. Picton, B.E. & Costello, M.J., 1998. BioMar biotope viewer: a guide to marine habitats, fauna and flora of Britain and Ireland. [CD-ROM] Environmental Sciences Unit, Trinity College, Dublin., http://www.itsligo.ie/biomar/

Citation

This review can be cited as:

Jackson, A. 2008. Axinella dissimilis Yellow staghorn sponge. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. Available from: http://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/1380

Last Updated: 17/04/2008