Golf ball sponge (Tethya aurantium)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help



Tethya aurantium is a spherical sponge up to 10 cm in diameter. It has the appearance of a small orange and may have rooting processes. The surface is 'warty' (tuberculate). The 'warts' (tubercles) are separated by contractile pore-bearing grooves. Sometimes buds are present, found on short stalks on top of these tubercles. When contracted, Tethya aurantium can appear smooth and evenly marked by striations. The striations can expand into grooves or channels, leaving 'islands of tissue'. Between these 'islands' the profile can be rounded or flat. There is usually one large oscule found opposite the attachment point.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Recorded from south-west England, the west coast of Wales, western Scotland and most Irish coasts, excluding the east.

Global distribution

Recorded from Norway to the Mediterranean and from New Zealand.


Tethya aurantium grows singly or in colonies on rocks, boulders and stones in the shallow sublittoral to depths of 130 m. It is often found on rocks in kelp forests.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Spherical/hemispherical.
  • Usually yellow or orange.
  • Up to 10 cm diameter.
  • Surface tuberculate or warty.
  • Often covered by a layer of silt.
  • Usually one large and distinct apical osculum.
  • The sphere has a short basal stalk which grows from a root-like mass.

Additional information

Stalked reproductive buds are produced between July and September (van Soest et al., 2000).

Listed by

- none -


  1. Gibson, R., Hextall, B. & Rogers, A., 2001. Photographic guide to the sea and seashore life of Britain and north-west Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  2. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E. ed., 1999. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. CD-ROM Edition. Ulster Museum and The Marine Conservation Society, Belfast and Ross-on-Wye., Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication no. 280.]

  3. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line]

  4. MarLIN (Marine Life Information Network), 2005. SEArchable BEnthic Data (SEABED) Map [on-line]. Data Access Sub-programme, Marine Life Information Network for Britian and Ireland,

  5. Moss, D., & Ackers, G. (eds.), 1982. The UCS Sponge Guide. Produced by R. Earll. Ross-on-Wye: The Underwater Conservation Society.

  6. Picton, B.E. & Costello, M.J., 1998. BioMar biotope viewer: a guide to marine habitats, fauna and flora of Britain and Ireland. [CD-ROM] Environmental Sciences Unit, Trinity College, Dublin.

  7. Van Soest, R.W.M., Picton, B. & Morrow, C., 2000. Sponges of the North East Atlantic. [CD-ROM] Windows version 1.0. Amsterdam: Biodiversity Center of ETI, Multimedia Interactive Software. [World Biodiversity Database CD-ROM Series.]


  1. Centre for Environmental Data and Recording, 2018. Ulster Museum Marine Surveys of Northern Ireland Coastal Waters. Occurrence dataset accessed via on 2018-09-25.

  2. Manx Biological Recording Partnership, 2018. Isle of Man historical wildlife records 1990 to 1994. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  3. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from:

  4. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2024-07-21

  5. South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. SEWBReC Marine and other Aquatic Invertebrates (South East Wales). Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-02.


This review can be cited as:

Oakley, J.A. 2008. Tethya aurantium Golf ball sponge. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 21-07-2024]. Available from:

Last Updated: 08/05/2008