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Nardo, 1847

Species Overview

Suberites massa Nardo (1847) is a yellow-orange massive sponge with irregular lobes, plates and ridges. It is often somewhat buried under silt, showing only the tops of the lobes. It has a compact, firm consistency. It is a southern species, common in the Mediterranean, but also known from the west coasts of France and south coasts of Britain. It has recently been found in SW Netherlands.

Taxonomic Description

Colour: Bright to buff orange; yellow (butter colour). "Yellow-orange in the basal regions, becoming more brown in top". Eventually turns grey in alcohol.
Shape, size, surface and consistency: (Suberites massa MCS) (Suberites massa MCS2) (Suberites massa Schmidt) Massive-lobose, often having the form of a flattened hemisphere, composed of a network of anastomosing plates and ridges, with the orange crests showing through but the interstices usually being filled with silt. The whole sponge may approximate the form, appearance and size of a human brain. At lateral growth areas repent and compact coalescing branches can occur. In places, tangled masses of these branches can themselves form the body of the sponge. Attachment to the substrate may be discontinuous. Size up to 1O cm thick by 30 cm in diameter but smaller fist-sized specimens are more typical. Surface smooth, moderate friction. Oscules are borne at the ends of papillae and are clearly visible under water. The papillae collapse on collection and the oscules are then no longer apparent. Consistency compact, firm. Contraction noticeable. Smell very slight, sweetish.
Spicules: (Suberites massa spics) Megascleres are large tylostyles in the range 160-950 x 4-16 µm. They are not differentiated into two size ranges, but a large number fall within the 550-850 µm range. A high proportion of the spicules are straight, with only a few being slightly curved. Vermiform spicules have also been reported. The heads are often mucronate to a greater or lesser extent, but a few are smoothly rounded. There are no microscleres.
Skeleton: Subradiate, the radial arrangement being apparent near the surface, where the spicules are loosely arranged into ascending bundles. The points of the spicules penetrate the sponge surface to form a sub-palisade layer, ca. 180 µm deep.
Ecology: Found in the silty brackish water of harbours, estuaries and lagoons where there are moderate tidal currents. It colonizes shells (often overgrowing them so that the sponge is free-standing), boulders and sea walls or similar structures. Usually sublittoral but in places, especially if shaded, can occur on the lowest shore.
Distribution: A southern species reaching its northernmost localities in Holland and Britain. Originally described from the Mediterranean, but reported along the west coasts of France, Southern England and the Netherlands.
Etymology: massa (Latin) = bulk or lump.
Type specimen information: Type probably lost; Schmidt's material is in the Graz Museum, LMJG 15666; MCS voucher BELUM: Mc657, off Roscoff, English Channel.


The large size of the tylostyles and estuarine habitat are characteristic. The form could be likened to a large, very ragged Polymastia robusta. The stubby branching processes are reminiscent of those of Axinella subdola.
Source: Ackers et al., 1992

Suberites massa