Sponges in Ireland

A 2009 report by the National Parks and Widlife Service, Irish Biodiversity: a taxonomic inventory of fauna, notes that there were references for 290 species of sponge in Ireland’s EEZ and with more species added since, including a number of deep water species there is obviously a wide variety of sponges to be found in Irish coastal waters. Detailed work by Bernard Picton and Claire Goodwin has revealed there to be at least 134 species of sponge found around Rathlin Island so there are at least that number found on the island of Ireland. A detailed guide to the sponges in Ireland can be found on in the Sponges of Britain & Ireland


Dive into a world of sponges

Sponge identification by SCUBA divers has often been a neglected aspect of the Seasearch program and to date only 8% of the Seasearch Ireland records on the island of Ireland relate to sponges despite being one of the most common group of marine invertebrates seen by divers. Significantly the boring sponge (Cliona celata) makes up ~20% of all sponge records (892 of 4338) indicating that where identification is possible Seasearch divers recognise sponges as an important part of species recording process.

Crater Sponge (Hemimycale columella) – Photograph Phil Wilkinson

Lack of sponge recording was previously thought to have been due to a lack of resources for photo-identificaiton of sponges in the field and a lack of expert knowledge on Irish sponges to ensure validation of records of sponges that are difficult (or in some cases impossible to identify in the field. However, with the publication of Sea squirts and Sponges of Britain and Ireland and the opportunity to collaborate with Dr Maria Vittoria Marra of NUI Galway the potential to address these knowledge gaps now exist.

We are delighted to offer divers in Ireland to learn to identify and record sponges in Irish waters through two exciting new sponge recording schemes, our Sponge Safari and our dedicated Sponge recording scheme.

Sponge safari

This project is aimed at increasing the number of records of 6 of the common and easily recognisable sponges that can be reliably identified to species in the field. The identification sheet prepared shows photos and a brief description of each species in order to allow identification in the water by snorkelers or SCUBA divers. For more information on this scheme click here.

Sponge recording scheme

This project aims to collect samples of cryptic sponges at a number of sites around Ireland for expert identification and to begin building a collection of Irish sponge species for future analysis. Samples will be collected under licence and photographed in the field by volunteer SCUBA divers and submitted to Seasearch Ireland for identification.