Crater sponge (Hemimycale columella)
|Researched by||Saskiya Richards||Refereed by||Admin|
|Other common names||Honeycomb sponge||Synonyms||-|
Hemimycale columella is a sessile sponge that forms a thick encrusting layer of at least 1 cm, and reaches widths of up to 30 cm. It has a fairly soft texture, a skeleton of siliceous spicules (spines) and spongin fibre. The surface of Hemimycale columella has a honeycomb appearance created by numerous cavities, the rims of which are supported by the spicules. Within each of the cavities is at least one small, inhalant pore (oscula) of up to 0.1 cm in diameter. In general the oscula are infrequent. Hemimycale columella is distinguished from similar species by its large megascleres (spicules) that are club-shaped at the ends, and by the absence of smaller spicules.
Recorded distribution in Britain and IrelandHemimycale columella has a widespread distribution from south-east England to northwest Scotland, including the southern, western and northern Irish coasts. It has not been recorded from the North Sea coast except at Blyth.
Global distributionHemimycale columella is distributed from the Artic and the British Isles to France and the Mediterranean.
HabitatHemimycale columella is epilithic and found attached to hard substratum, such as clean rock, boulders, cobbles, stones and shingle. It is found on the lower shore and in the sublittoral zone, its optimal development being within the kelp zone. It is not found in harbours.
- Thick encrusting texture.
- Surface characterised by depressions which create a honeycomb appearance.
- Colour varies from bright red to pale orange or pink.
- Depression craters highlighted by a lighter-coloured ridge.
In its encrusting form Hemimycale columella grows outwards from the edge of the colony. However, this species also exhibits an irregular massive form in which growth takes place on the surface. When disturbed, the oscules contract within approximately 15 seconds - (Forester, 1955). Both reproduction and growth are dependent on the time of season. Hemimycale columella is a filter-feeder, using internal choanocytes to circulate water through its pores.
The taxonomy of Hemimycale columella is unclear with some authorities placing it in the Haliclonidae family, others in the Biemnidae with Biemna variantia. This species can be mistaken for Phorbas fictitus which lacks a light-coloured circle around the depression craters.
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Last Updated: 03/07/2008