Sea orange (Suberites ficus)

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



The body form is very variable, typically massively lobed but can be a cushion, massively globular, elongated or encrusting. Size varies between 10-40 cm in diameter and the surface looks smooth but is slightly rough to touch. The colour is usually orange or intermediate shades of yellow, brown and orange but has also been reported as white, grey or green. The pores through which water leaves the body cavity (oscules) are large and typically at the tops of the lobes but may be in other positions.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Widely distributed around the British coast.

Global distribution

Widespread throughout the Arctic and northeast Atlantic, and found in the north western Mediterranean.


Occurs on rock and other hard substrata such as wreckage and empty gastropod and scallop shells. Reported to prefer being exposed to tidal currents.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Growth form is typically massively lobed, but may be a cushion.
  • Size up to 40 cm in diameter.
  • Colour usually orange or intermediate shades of yellow, brown and orange.
  • The surface is smooth but with some friction to touch.
  • Large oscules typically at the top of the lobes, but may be in other positions.
  • Contracts to 3/4 of its size when removed from water.
  • Shape, size and arrangement of spicules is important for identification of the species.

Additional information

Suberites ficus has been variously reported as being both synonymous with, and a separate species from Suberites domuncula. The name given to these species is still tentative because the specific distinctiveness of Suberites ficus and other named forms needs further study (van Soest et al., 2000).

Listed by

- none -


  1. 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.]

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

  3. Van Soest, R.W.M., Picton, B. & Morrow, C., 2000. Sponges of the North East Atlantic. [CD-ROM] Windows version 1.0. Amsterdam: Biodiversity Center of ETI, Multimedia Interactive Software. [World Biodiversity Database CD-ROM Series.]


  1. Centre for Environmental Data and Recording, 2018. Ulster Museum Marine Surveys of Northern Ireland Coastal Waters. Occurrence dataset accessed via on 2018-09-25.

  2. Fenwick, 2018. Aphotomarine. Occurrence dataset Accessed via on 2018-10-01

  3. Kent Wildlife Trust, 2018. Biological survey of the intertidal chalk reefs between Folkestone Warren and Kingsdown, Kent 2009-2011. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  4. Kent Wildlife Trust, 2018. Kent Wildlife Trust Shoresearch Intertidal Survey 2004 onwards. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  5. Manx Biological Recording Partnership, 2018. Isle of Man historical wildlife records 1990 to 1994. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  6. National Trust, 2017. National Trust Species Records. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  7. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from:

  8. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2024-06-16

  9. Outer Hebrides Biological Recording, 2018. Invertebrates (except insects), Outer Hebrides. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  10. South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. SEWBReC Marine and other Aquatic Invertebrates (South East Wales). Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-02.


This review can be cited as:

Avant, P. 2008. Suberites ficus Sea orange. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 16-06-2024]. Available from:

Last Updated: 08/05/2008