Sponge Guide

UNCW National Science Foundation Valdosta State University Universidad Nacional de Colombia

Introducing the 4th Edition!

In this edition, the Sponge Guide has become directly editable online by the managing team! We start from the 231 species morphs and 2,152 images of sponges from the Caribbean region that were included in the 3rd edition and will be progressively correcting and updating taxonomical information and adding images and species. We will continue expanding the regions we’ve visited and cataloged to capture more of the geographic and habitat variation of these animals.

Please notice the search features, detailed descriptions and notes, and many other features as you browse and explore the Sponge Guide, 4th Edition.

Just click the Find a Sponge tab on the right to begin. Enjoy!
Sponges are important members of coral reef ecosystems. They filter water, cycle nutrients, and provide a home to numerous cryptic organisms. With the decline of corals, sponges have become the main habitat-forming organisms on many Caribbean reefs.

Species of sponges differ in shape, color, texture. However, even individuals of the same species can differ in their appearance between geographic areas, and between habitats and through their growth. By providing numerous images covering the variation of most species, this guide helps both laymen and expert in the identification.

Every image presented in this database has been examined and tagged with searchable physical characteristic, and the species identification has been carried out using established taxonomic techniques.

Because of their variability, identifying sponges can be a difficult task. Often, microscopic examination of the skeleton, composed of organic (protein) tissue fibers and skeletal elements, called spicules, is necessary to distinguish different species. With this 4th edition, we will continue to include composite images of skeletal structures (spicules and tissue sections), together with detailed descriptions and taxonomic comments, to help in the identification and to make the guide an authoritative taxonomic monograph.

We hope that you find this tool useful and gain a better appreciation for the wonderful world of Caribbean sponges!
Data used from the Sponge Guide can be referenced as:

Zea, S., Henkel, T.P., and Pawlik, J.R. 2024. The Sponge Guide: a picture guide to Caribbean sponges. 4th Edition. Available online at www.spongeguide.org. Accessed on: 2024-02-27 .