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(Montagu, 1818)

Species Overview

Suberites suberia (Montagu, 1818) is an orange elongated globular sponge inhabited by a hermit crab (mostly Pagurus). This characteristic association is known from another Suberites species occurring to the south (Mediterranean, West Africa), and the two can only be told apart by microscopic examination. Some authors consider them as synonyms of a single species S. domuncula.

Taxonomic Description

Colour: Orange-yellow.
Shape, size, surface and consistency: The sponge envelops a dead gastropod shell which is inhabited by a hermit crab (it is a "mobile sponge"). Size up to 10 cm in diameter, with a tendency to become laterally spreading. Surface smooth, velvety. Apart from the opening used by the hermit crab there are no clearly developed oscules. Consistency firm.
Spicules: Tylostyles up to 330 x 8 µm. Centrotylote microstrongyles 15-50 µm.
Skeleton: The ectosomal skeleton consists of bouquets or a palisade of smaller tylostyles, among the ends of which are found variable quantities of microstrongyles. More interiorly, the skeleton is rather irregular, dense, with vague bundles of larger tylostyles.
Ecology: Inhabited by hermit crab, e.g. Pagurus pubescens (cf. Bruce et al., 1963). Depth 20-50 m, on sandy bottoms.
Etymology: suber (Latin) = cork.
Distribution: North Sea, West coasts of Britain, Ireland and France; possibly Mediterranean.
Type specimen information: No type material in BMNH.


The name of this species is persistently spelled suberea for no apparent reason, as Montagu's original name is clearly suberia. The species was frequently considered a synonym of either Suberites ficus or S. domuncula, but recent genetic studies (Solé-Cava et al., 1986 as Suberites pagurorum) have established differences of a specific level between sympatric populations of Suberites ficus s.l.
Esper's (1794) water colour of Alcyonium tuberosum may conceivably represent this species (if that would be the case suberia would have to be called tuberosa), but in the absence of Esper's material, it is generally assumed that the plate represents Suberites domuncula; this is followed here.
Source: Bowerbank, 1866; Topsent, 1900.

Suberites suberia