Mermaid's Glove (Haliclona (Haliclona) oculata)

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



Haliclona oculata is usually pale brown in colour but can also be yellowish, greenish, rose or purple. It is shaped like a tree with digitate branches and rises from a limited encrusting holdfast. It is usually about 30 cm tall and has a velvety surface. Branches are typically numerous, with a diameter of about 7 mm and are usually laterally compressed. The sponge has a robust consistency but is easily compressible and very flexible.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Recorded from the Shetland Isles, Cromarty Firth, Firth of Forth, Northumberland, southern coasts of England, Isles of Scilly, north Devon, Wales, Cumbria, western Scotland, Hebrides, northern Ireland, east, south west and west coasts of Ireland.

Global distribution

This is a northern species, occurring all around the North Atlantic (including Canada and North America), as far south as Portugal. Thought to also occur in the entire Arctic and sub-Arctic area.


Haliclona oculata can be found on open coasts and the outer reaches of estuaries, usually shallow water to about 100 m depth. The species is often associated with rather silted water. Usually on rocky or sandy substrata, often attached to stones and rocks. Can tolerate low salinity and turbid water with suspended silt.

Depth range

0 - 100 m

Identifying features

  • Sponge consists of solid branches growing from a short stalk, which is attached to the substratum.
  • Oscules (exhalent openings) are small and arranged along the branches in rows.
  • The diameter of the branches often decreases towards the blind end.
  • Branches are often laterally compressed, with oscules mainly arranged on the narrower sides of the compressed branches.
  • Soft but elastic, not fragile, but becoming firmer towards the base.
  • Outer layer skeleton is mostly absent.
  • Spicules take the form of a single straight axis (monaxon), with both ends tapering to a point (oxea).
  • Oxeas are short and fat, with short and sharp points.

Additional information

Under sheltered conditions, branches are occasionally flattened, antler-shaped and less numerous. The shape and degree of branching are greatly affected by the strength of the current flow, with the much branched form found in strong currents.

Listed by

- none -


  1. Hayward, P.J. & Ryland, J.S. (ed.) 1995b. Handbook of the marine fauna of North-West Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  2. 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.]

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

  4. Stachowitsch, M., 1992. The invertebrates: an illustrated glossary. USA: Wiley-Liss.

  5. Van Soest, R. 2015. Haliclona oculataSponges of the NE. Atlantic Marine Species Identification Portal [On-line].  ETI BioInformatics in the KeyToNature programme. Available from:


  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. Environmental Records Information Centre North East, 2018. ERIC NE Combined dataset to 2017. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-09-38

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

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

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

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

  7. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2024-03-02

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

  9. Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service., 2017. Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service (SBIS) Dataset. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-02.


This review can be cited as:

Mayhew, E.M. 2006. Haliclona (Haliclona) oculata Mermaid's Glove. 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 02-03-2024]. Available from:

Last Updated: 15/12/2006