BIOTIC Species Information for Halichondria bowerbanki
Researched byDr Keith Hiscock and Hugh Jones Data supplied byMarLIN
Refereed byDr Rob van Soest
Scientific nameHalichondria bowerbanki Common nameBowerbank's halichondria
MCS CodeC638 Recent SynonymsNone

PhylumPorifera Subphylum
Superclass ClassDemospongiae
SubclassCeractinomorpha OrderHalichondrida
Suborder FamilyHalichondriidae
GenusHalichondria Speciesbowerbanki

Additional Information
  • Microscopic examination of the spicules reveals that they are relatively long and thin, and taper to the apices.
  • Named after James S. Bowerbank (1797-1877), a pioneering authority on sponges.
  • Easily confused with Halichondria panicea, but Halichondria bowerbanki is distinguished by the absence of the chimney-like oscules that occur in Halichondria panicea.
Taxonomy References Howson & Picton, 1997, Soest van et al., 2000, Moss & Ackers, 1982,
General Biology
Growth formCrustose soft
Feeding methodActive suspension feeder
Mobility/MovementPermanent attachment
Environmental positionEpifaunal
Typical food typesFine suspended organic matter. HabitAttached
BioturbatorNot relevant FlexibilityHigh (>45 degrees)
FragilityFragile SizeMedium-large(21-50cm)
HeightUp to 12 cm Growth RateMean 1.1 mm/day in summer. None in winter.
Adult dispersal potentialNot relevant DependencyCommensal with/on/in
General Biology Additional Information
  • Under optimal conditions (and with a low sample number), Vethaak et al. (1982) recorded a mean length increase of 1.1 mm / day in summer and no growth in winter.
  • Vethaak et al. (1982) identified five distinct growth forms (plus intermediate forms) including incrusting, bushlike and massive forms. They reported a maximum colony size of 25 cm width to 12 cm high although most colonies are rarely this big.
  • In some sheltered locations the branches grow over other species and loop like bramble stolons attaching to any suitable object they encounter.
  • Found to house a large community of associated amphipod species which show seasonal variation (Biernbaum, 1981).
  • The green filamentous algae Microspora ficulinae lives in association with the tissues of Halichondria bowerbanki.
Biology References Soest van et al., 2000, Moss & Ackers, 1982, Farnham et al., 1985, Biernbaum, 1981, Barthel & Wolfrath, 1989, Barthel, 1988,
Distribution and Habitat
Distribution in Britain & IrelandCommonly found in southern England, Pembrokeshire and north west Wales, also frequently found in western Scotland. Isolated records from the North Sea.
Global distributionPresent on both sides of the north Atlantic. In Europe it has been reported south to Brittany, and is found in the south west Netherlands and in harbours of the Wadden Sea. It is a non-native species in North America.
Biogeographic rangeNot researched Depth rangeOccasionally intertidal, to 90 m
MigratoryNon-migratory / Resident   
Distribution Additional InformationIn the United Kingdom, Halichondria bowerbanki (studied as Halichondria coalita) was recorded up to depths of 90 m (Bowerbank, 1874, cited in Vethaak et al., 1982).

Substratum preferencesOverhangs
Physiographic preferencesEstuary
Strait / sound
Ria / Voe
Isolated saline water (Lagoon)
Biological zoneSublittoral Fringe
Wave exposureSheltered
Tidal stream strength/Water flowStrong (3-6 kn)
Moderately Strong (1-3 kn)
Weak (<1 kn)
SalinityFull (30-40 psu)
Reduced (18-30 psu)
Habitat Preferences Additional InformationOccurs in muddy environments where the similar sponge Halichondria panicea cannot survive. Reaches its best development in harbours. In the Oosterschelde, Halichondria bowerbanki was found growing on tunicates (especially Styela clava), molluscs and, in a brackish lagoon, on small reefs of Electra crustulenta (Vethaak et al., 1982).
Distribution References Soest van et al., 2000, Hayward et al., 1996, Moss & Ackers, 1982, Biernbaum, 1981, Soest van, 1977, JNCC, 1999, NBN, 2002, Vethaak et al., 1982, Bowerbank, 1874,
Reproduction/Life History
Reproductive typePermanent hermaphrodite
Developmental mechanismViviparous (Parental Care)
Reproductive SeasonApril to November Reproductive LocationAs adult
Reproductive frequencyInsufficient information Regeneration potential Yes
Life spanInsufficient information Age at reproductive maturityInsufficient information
Generation timeInsufficient information FecundityInsufficient information
Egg/propagule sizeInsufficient information Fertilization typeInternal
Larval/Juvenile dispersal potentialInsufficient information Larval settlement periodInsufficient information
Duration of larval stageInsufficient information   
Reproduction Preferences Additional InformationIn the Oosterschelde, large oocytes and embryos found from early August until mid-October which coincided with a drop in water temperature from maximal summer values to about 14 °C (Vethaak et al., 1982). Wapstra & van Soest (1987) recorded that Halichondria bowerbanki from the same area contained oocytes from April through to November although embryos were only observed from June to November. Newly settled colonies were seen within just over a year, i.e. the following September and October (Vethaak et al., 1982) . Wapstra & van Soest (1982) noted that it was possible that Halichondria bowerbanki could be protandrous or protogynous hermaphrodites. No information was found concerning the life span of Halichondria bowerbanki although a life span of about 3 years was suggested for the closely related Halichondria panicea in Fish & Fish (1996).

Halichondria bowerbanki survives over the winter months as a dormant form with no growth and a disintegration of tissue. In the Oosterschelde, this species experienced a drastic reduction in biomass during the severe winter of 1978/9, especially in the intertidal (Vethaak et al., 1982).

Reproduction References Soest van et al., 2000, Wapstra & van Soest, 1987,
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