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Red Beard Sponge

Microciona prolifera

The red beard sponge is a brightly colored sponge with thick, intertwining branches. (David Remsen/Flickr)
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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.

Appearance:

  • Varies in color from orange to bright red
  • Thick, intertwining branches
  • Small, scattered pores
  • Grows to 8 inches tall and 12 inches wide

Habitat:

  • Grows in thick clumps on rocks, piers and pilings in shallow waters
  • Also found on wrecks and oyster reefs in deeper waters

Range:

  • Found in the middle and lower Chesapeake Bay

Feeding:

  • Filter feeder
  • 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

Other Facts:

  • 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

Sources and Additional Information:


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