BIOTIC Species Information for Halichondria panicea
Researched byDr Keith Hiscock Data supplied byMarLIN
Refereed byDr Rob van Soest
Scientific nameHalichondria panicea Common nameBreadcrumb sponge
MCS CodeC651 Recent SynonymsNone

PhylumPorifera Subphylum
Superclass ClassDemospongiae
SubclassCeractinomorpha OrderHalichondrida
Suborder FamilyHalichondriidae
GenusHalichondria Speciespanicea

Additional Information
Taxonomy References Fish & Fish, 1996, Barthel, 1988, Hayward & Ryland, 1990, Vethaak et al., 1982,
General Biology
Growth formCushion
Feeding methodActive suspension feeder
Mobility/MovementPermanent attachment
Environmental positionEpiphytic
Typical food typesPhytoplankton HabitAttached
BioturbatorNot relevant FlexibilityNone (< 10 degrees)
FragilityFragile SizeMedium(11-20 cm)
Height1 - 25 cm Growth RateAverage 0.8mm/day in summer, 0.2 mm/day in winter
Adult dispersal potentialNone DependencyIndependent
SociabilityColonial Host forSymbiotic algae
General Biology Additional InformationGrowth rate
Under optimal conditions, Vethaak et al. (1982) recorded a mean length increase of 0.8 mm / day in summer and 0.2 mm / day in winter. It should be noted that this figure was a mean of six specimens. In terms of percentage increase in area, Barthel (1988) recorded a 1.6% increase in area per day and an increase in mean organic body mass of 100-240% between March and August in the western Baltic. Leichler & Witman (1997) recorded growth rates of about 5% per week with highest growth rates in lower currents in the Gulf of Maine.

Growth form
Vethaak et al. (1982) described six distinct forms (as well as intermediate forms) including apparently free-living forms, low incrusting forms and massive forms with elaborate chimneys (see Vethaak et al., 1982 for further details and photographs).

Biology References Fish & Fish, 1996, Barthel, 1988, Leichler & Witman, 1997, Campbell, 1994, Birkett et al., 1998(b), Barnes, 1980, Barthel & Wolfrath, 1989, Vethaak et al., 1982,
Distribution and Habitat
Distribution in Britain & IrelandPresent all around Britain and Ireland.
Global distributionNorth Atlantic from the Barents Sea to the Mediterranean but not extending far into the Baltic.
Biogeographic rangeNot researched Depth rangeIntertidal to ca 569 m
MigratoryNon-migratory / Resident   
Distribution Additional InformationBurton (1959, cited in Vethaak et al., 1982) considered Halichondria panicea to be cosmopolitan in distribution. Alander (1942, cited in Vethaak et al., 1982) recorded Halichondria panicea at 569 m depth off the Swedish coast.

Substratum preferencesBedrock
Large to very large boulders
Small boulders
Physiographic preferencesOpen coast
Strait / sound
Ria / Voe
Isolated saline water (Lagoon)
Enclosed coast / Embayment
Biological zoneMid Eulittoral
Lower Eulittoral
Sublittoral Fringe
Upper Infralittoral
Lower Infralittoral
Upper Circalittoral
Lower Circalittoral
Wave exposureExtremely Exposed
Very Exposed
Moderately Exposed
Very Sheltered
Extremely Sheltered
Ultra Sheltered
Tidal stream strength/Water flowVery Strong (>6 kn)
Strong (3-6 kn)
Moderately Strong (1-3 kn)
Weak (<1 kn)
SalinityVariable (18-40 psu)
Full (30-40 psu)
Reduced (18-30 psu)
Habitat Preferences Additional InformationHalichondria panicea occurs on kelp stipes where it may dominate in tidal rapids and on other algae such as Halidrys siliquosa (sea oak). In low or variable salinity (for instance, in the western Baltic), it may be found encrusting predominantly on red algae such as Phyllophora sp. and Phycodrys sp. (Barthel, 1988). Halichondria panicea was found growing on tunicates (especially the invasive leathery sea squirt Styela clava) and molluscs in the Oosterschelde (Vethaak et al., 1982).
Distribution References Barthel, 1988, Campbell, 1994, Birkett et al., 1998(b), Barnes, 1980, Vethaak et al., 1982, Burton, 1959, Alander, 1942,
Reproduction/Life History
Reproductive typeSee additional information
Developmental mechanismLecithotrophic
Reproductive SeasonApril to June Reproductive LocationAs adult
Reproductive frequencyAnnual episodic Regeneration potential Yes
Life span3-5 years Age at reproductive maturityInsufficient information
Generation time<1 year FecundityInsufficient information
Egg/propagule sizeInsufficient information Fertilization typeInternal
Larval/Juvenile dispersal potentialInsufficient information Larval settlement periodInsufficient information
Duration of larval stageInsufficient information   
Reproduction Preferences Additional InformationWitte et al. (1994) found that Halichondria panicea had a seasonally distinct, very short, reproductive period in the Kiel Bight, Western Baltic. Oogenesis started in late summer/early autumn and oocytes developed over winter. Spermatogenesis occurred when mature oocytes were formed and larvae were released in the spring through to June. However, Wapstra & van Soest (1987) reported that Halichondria panicea contained oocytes all year round in the Oosterschelde although embryos were only observed between May and September. They reported the species as being hermaphrodite although it was not stated whether or not the sponge was a permanent hermaphrodite or whether it exhibited protandrous or protogynous hermaphroditism. In the same area, Vethaak et al. (1982) found, comparably, that large oocytes and embryos were present from mid-May until mid-August coinciding with an increase in water temperature from 12 °C to ca 19 °C. Vethaak et al. (1982) also observed that, in the field, newly settled colonies were apparent within one year, i.e. the following May. Wapstra & van Soest (1987) noted that the reproductive cycle in Halichondria panicea may vary considerably between areas.

A life span of about 3 years was suggested in Fish & Fish (1996). Unlike Halichondria bowerbanki, Halichondria panicea survive the winter in a normal, active state in the Oosterschelde (Vethaak et al., 1982).

Reproduction References Fish & Fish, 1996, Witte et al., 1994, Birkett et al., 1998(b), Wapstra & van Soest, 1987, Vethaak et al., 1982,
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