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Genus/Species

 

Sponges

Clinical entries

For clinical data see section “Risk” below

Species

Of medical interest are:

  1. Biemna sp. (Desmacellidae)
  2. Haliclona sp. (Haliclonidae)
  3. Lissodendoryx sp. (Coelosphaeridae)
  4. Microciona sp. (Clathriidae)
  5. Neofibularia sp. (= Fibula sp., Desmacellidae)
  6. Taedania sp. (Taedaniidae)

Taxonomy

Porifera

Common names

  1. Green sponge (H. viridis
  2. Red moss sponge, Redbeard (M. prolifera
  3. Australian stinging sponge (N. mordens), Touch-me-not-sponge, Poison bun sponge (N. nolitangere)
  4. Fire sponge, Feuerschwamm (T. ignis)

Distribution

  1. Biemna saucia: northern and northwest Australia
  2. Caribbean and Pacific 
  3. Southern Australia
  4. M. prolifera on the northeast coast of the USA
  5. N. mordens in the Gulf St. Vincent (South Australia), N. nolitangere in the Caribbean
  6. T. ignis in the Pacific and Caribbean

Biology

Sponges are among the simplest multicellular animals. The vast majority of species live in the marine environment. They represent sessile life forms whose bodies are permeated by numerous channels and chambers. With the help of flagellate cells, water is taken in through numerous superficial openings for filtration for nutrients and respiration. Water is expelled again through larger outlet channels.

The form and colouring of sponges is very variable, even within the same species, and depends on their location and the prevailing current. Taxonomic identification is thus often difficult. Besides the more compact barrel-, pipe- and cup-shaped forms, flat forms also exist. Sponges would be at the mercy of natural enemies and micro-organisms, as well as colonisation by other sessile organisms, if they were not able to produce numerous secondary metabolites for their defence. Skin contact with these substances can lead to dermatitis. If a sponge is grasped, sharp, microscopically small needles made of silica or calcium carbonate (spiculae) penetrate the skin and thus lead to injection of the secretions. The spiculae are located in the sponge tissue and their primary function is to provide a framework for the tissue.


 

  Fig. 4.79 Neofibularia nolitangere

Risk

Most accidents occur when gathering sponges. Most species only cause mild local effects or none at all. Contact with the above-mentioned representatives generally results in pain and itching. Local oedema of the soft tissue and joints can also result. Spiculae that get stuck under the skin can lead to stiffness of the wrist and finger joints.

European freshwater sponges, such as Spongilla lacustris, are also believed to cause dermatitis upon skin contact.

Treatment

Symptomatic.

Literature (biological)

Auerbach and Halstead 1989, Cleland and Southcott 1965, Halstead  1988, Mebs 1992, Southcott 1987c, Southcott and Coulter 1971, Williamson et al. 1996

The Sponge Guide