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Sponges of the cold temperate NE Pacific

Bill Austin1, Bruce Ott1, Henry Reiswig2; Neil McDaniel3;

and Paula Romagosa4

[Feb. 2014 Ed. 6 . Jan. 2015 Ed. 8]


                                                      1. Khoyatan Marine Laboratory; 2. Dept. of Biology, Univ. of Victoria; Natural History Section ,British Columbia Museum;

                                                                                        3. McDaniel Photography, Vancouver, BC; 4. Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre.

Khoyatan Marine Laboratory houses a moderately large collection of NE Pacific Sponges which have been worked on by Bill Austin and Bruce Ott. A list of 260 species from central California to southern Alaska is recorded by Austin (1985).  Austin and Ott provided a key to 130 species from British Columbia and Washington (Kozloff, 1987).

This annotated list of approximately 290 species is an update of the 1985 list noted above. Approximately 230 of these species are recorded in BC and adjacent waters.  The 142 highlighted species names include photos of specimens and 90 species names flagged by SEM have scanning electron micrographs of skeletal spicules. These can serve as a pictorial supplement to existing descriptions and keys. The list includes some undescribed species (unnamed) but is not intended as a medium for formal species descriptions. Scanning electron micrographs were taken by Bill Austin at Simon Fraser University and  Henry Reiswig at the University of Victoria, while underwater photographs were largely taken by Neil McDaniel (McDaniel Photography, Vancouver, BC).

Click on a Glossary of spicule types and a Glossary of skeleton types and review the nomenclature for various types of spicules and skeletons found in sponges occurring in the NE Pacific. For a slide show of the available colour images of sponges click here. These images are ordered alphabetically.

The main check list below includes distribution, and synonyms, as well as available colour images of each sponge and images of spicules [SEM]. If images are available, the name of the sponge will appear as a link (blue and underlined). This list is ordered systematically by Order and Class, while families and genera are ordered alphabetically.

Welton Lee, David Elvin and Henry Reiswig have produced a major guide to the sponges of California while Bob Stone, Helmut Lehnert, and Henry Reiswig (2011) have produced a guide to the deep water sponges in the Aelutians. We hope that, ultimately, a revised list will incorporate the work of all spongologists along the NE Pacific coast. Please note that the list at this time is a draft copy subject to updates and corrections.

Many people helped in field surveys and collection including: Myriam Preker (Bamfield Marine Station), Mike LeBlanc & Ray Anderson (Univ. British Columbia), Jeff Marliave (Vancouver Public Aquarium), Verena Tunnicliffe (Univ. Victoria), Kim Conway & J Vaughn Barrie (Pacific Geoscience Centre), Henry Reiswig (McGill Univ.), Welton Lee (California Acad. Sciences), Bjørn Gulliksen (Univ. Tromsø), and Manfred Krautter (Univ. Stuttgart). Jeff Goddard (Univ. Cal, Santa Barbara, and Jerry Backus (Univ. Southern California) who provided some updates on his collections in the Puget Sound region in the 1960s.

Support on scanning electron microscopes was provided by Mary Lou Malott, Vic Bourne (Simon Fraser Univ.) and Jack Dietrich (Univ. Victoria)Photos other than those of the authors were provided by Rick Harbo (Fisheries & Oceans, Canada), Brent Cooke and Phil Lambert (BC Provincial Museum), Ron Long (Simon Fraser Univ.) and Bernard Hanby. Access to Museum material was provided by Kelly Sendall (BC Provincial Museum), Frank Bernard (Pacific Biological Station), Ralph Brinkhurst & Doug Moore (Institute of Ocean Sciences), and Rob Van Syoc (California Academy of Sciences), Bruce Ott (Natural Museum of Canada), Sandra Millen (University of British Columbia), Bill Austin (Simon Fraser University), Gary Silver (University of Victoria). Production of this list for our web site and on CDs was performed by Greg Bate (Live PC), Laura Robson, Jackie Hendrix, Kim Kyba, Eve Robinson, and John Austin (


Selected references
Austin, W.C. 1985. An annotated checklist of marine invertebrates in the cold temperate northeast Pacific. Khoyatan, Cowichan Bay, B.C. 642p. [sponges pp. 21-42]

Boury-Esnault, N. and K. Rützler eds. (1997). Thesaurus of sponge morphology. Smithsonian Contrib. to Zool. 596. 55p.


Carlton J. T (ed). 2007. The light and Smith manual: intertidal invertebrates from Central California to Oregon. Univ. California Press, Berkeley, 1001p.

Hooper, J. & R.W.M. Van Soest. 2002. Systema Porifera. A Guide to the Classification of Sponges. Kluwer Academic/Plenum. New York. 2 vol. 1708, xlviii pp.

Kozloff, E. 1987. Marine invertebrates of the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA. 511p. [sponges by Austin and Ott pp. 6-31 plus p. 487 in 1996 paperback edition].

Lamb, A & W.P. Hanby. 2005. Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest. Harbour Publ., Madiera Park, BC. 398p.
[Sponges pp. 60-80].

Lee, W.L, D.W. Elvin, & H. Reiswig. 2007. The Sponges of California. A Guide and Key to the Marine Sponges of California. Vermont Information Systems. Shelburne, VT

Morris, R.H., D.P. Abbott, & E.C. Haderlie. 1980. Intertidal invertebrates of California. Stanford Univ. Press., Stanford, CA. 690p. [sponges by Bakus & Abbott pp. 21-39].

Stone, R. P., Lehnert H., Reiswig H. 2011. A guide to the deep-water sponges of the Aelutian Island Archipelago. NOAA Professional Paper 12. 187p.

Code to images: blue (sponge name) = hyperlink to photo(s) of whole animal;
[SEM] = 1+ scanning electron images of spicules.
Abbreviations: Alask=Alaska, Aleut=Aleutians, Aleut=Aleutians, Arc=Arctic, Atl=Atlantic BC=British Columbia, BerS=Bering Sea, Cosmo=Cosmopolitan, Ind=Indian Ocean, N,C,S Cal=North, Central, Southern California, Oreg=Oregon, Pac=Pacific Ocean, Wash=Washington
Littoral=Intertidal, Shallow= less than 200 m deep, Deep=more than 200 m deep;
*xxx * denotes a locality for new records.
aff = close to; cf = compare with

Orders are arranged by convention while families are listed alphabetically under each order, and genera are listed alphabetically under each family.






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