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 Major Groups | Porifera (sponges)

Porifera (sponges) Spongillidae

Major Group: Porifera
In Australia, freshwater species belong to a single family, Spongillidae.

Descriptive Features:

  • sessile
  • colonial animals, forming a mat-like colonial structure
  • colony encrusting larger submerged
  • colonial body sponge-like
  • each individual without tentacles
  • individual body shape is irregular, dull coloured (grey, brownish or yellowish)
  • body consisting of a cavity surrounded by convoluted walls with many pores
  • flagella may be present
  • Size: encrustations can be very small to several metres across but less than 2 cm deep

      Spongillidae colony as found in sample


      Spongillidae colony as found in river

      Taxonomic Checklist: Genera
      2 species
      Eunapius 4 species
      Heteromeyenia stepanowii Dybowsky
      Heterorotula 5 species
      Pectispongilla botryoides Haswell
      Radiospongilla 8 species
      Spongilla alba Carter
      Stratospongilla lanei Racek
      Trochospongilla 2 species
      Umborotula bogorensis Weber

      Distribution: Australia wide

      Sensitivity Rating: SIGNAL grade 4. Spongillidae can tolerate slightly saline waters.

      Functional Feeding Group: filtering collectors

      AUSRIVAS Taxacode: IA019999


      Ovens River backwater, Peechelba Vic

      Ecology: Spongillidae species are found encrusting the underside or edges of submerged rocks and wood in littoral regions of clean ponds, lakes, slow flowing streams and rivers with stable substrata. Algae may grow on top of the colony giving it a green appearance. A colony consists of specialised cells performing different functions. Cells are grouped into loosely formed tissues around canals. The wall pores (ostia in, oscula out) allow water to pass through the animal for filter feeding. Sponges feed on bacteria, small organic particulate matter and detritus. Spongillidae undergo asexual reproduction by developing numerous gemmules (resting bodies). These are smaller than one millimetre, spherical, undifferentiated and resistant to adverse conditions. Gemmules are dispersed by aquatic birds. If broken into pieces, the sponge colony will continue to grow as separate colonies. Sexual reproduction is present in Northern Hemisphere sponges and may or may not be present in Australia. The individuals are hermaphrodites. Eggs develop into free swimming ciliated larvae.


      Information Sources: Hooper 2010, Williams 1980, Hawking & Smith 1997, Gooderham & Tsyrlin 2002
      Key to Genera: Williams 1980
      Key to Species: unknown