Quick Facts

Species Type

Native

Size

8 inches tall; 12 inches in width

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.

Diet

Filter feeders

Conservation Status

Stable

Appearance

The red beard sponge grows to 8 inches tall and 12 inches in width. It varies in color from orange to bright red and has thick, intertwining branches and small, scattered pores.

Feeding

Red beard sponges are filter feeders that feed by drawing water through their pores into their 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

These sponges reproduce 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.

Did You Know?

  • Sponges are animals, not plants. Red beard sponges are the most common sponge in the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Red beard sponges cannot survive if taken out of water.
  • Sponges provide important habitat for shrimp, worms, crabs and other small Bay creatures.

Sources and Additional Information