The red beard sponge is a brightly colored sponge with thick, intertwining branches. (David Remsen/Flickr)
The red beard sponge is a brightly colored sponge with thick, intertwining branches. It lives on rocks, reefs, piers, pilings and other hard surfaces in the middle and lower Chesapeake Bay.
Varies in color from orange to bright red
Thick, intertwining branches
Small, scattered pores
Grows to 8 inches tall and 12 inches wide
Grows in thick clumps on rocks, piers and pilings in shallow waters
Also found on wrecks and oyster reefs in deeper waters
Found in the middle and lower Chesapeake Bay
Feeds by drawing water through its pores into chambers. Beating, hair-like cilia capture food particles in the water. Unused water and waste products exit through another opening at the top of the sponge.
Reproduction and Life Cycle:
Reproduces both sexually and asexually
Asexual reproduction takes place when branches are damaged or broken off. The sponge fragments bud into new sponges.
During sexual reproduction, eggs are fertilized within the sponge. Free-swimming larvae eventually settle to the bottom, where they find a hard surface to attach themselves to.
Young sponges are usually thin and flat, rather than thick and branching
The most common sponge in the Chesapeake Bay
Cannot survive if taken out of water
Sponges are animals, not plants
The nooks and crannies within sponges provide important habitat for shrimp, worms, crabs and other small Bay creatures