Tedania ignis

Geographic Range

The range of Tedania ignis, common name fire sponge, is primarily in the Neotropical Region; however, there are significant populations in the southern Neartic Region. The southernmost population exists off the coast of Brazil and extend as far north as South Carolina. There have been reports of T. ignis in the Southern Pacific near Hawaii however these are unconfirmed and could be attributed to the difficulty of classifying species within the family Tedaniidae. (Wulff, 2006)


Fire sponges are found in shallow tropical waters with a relatively slow but steady water flow. They usually live at depths between 0.5-2 m. Tedania ignis are found in two general habitats: amongst red mangrove roots and in coral reefs. When in association with a reef habitat T. ignis generally hides in cryptic locations under patches of coral rubble due to the increase in predation by fish. (Engel and Pawlik, 2005; Maldonado and Young, 1996; Pawlik, 1998)

  • Range depth
    0.5 to 2 m
    1.64 to 6.56 ft

Physical Description

In general fire sponges are conspicuous with a bright orange color. They are sessile, growing in low mounds extending in all directions, approximately 1 cm thick. Oscula are scattered throughout the organism. The shape and size of spicules are a major characteristic used for classification and identification of sponges. The spicules of T. ignus are smooth with curved styles and the tylotes are straight with microspined ends. Tedania ignus has spicules ranging in size from 50-270 µm in length and 32.-9.8 µm in width. The diameter of the ostial openings are 3.5-14.0 µm. (Simpson, 1984; Wulff, 2006)

Tedania ignus can be difficult to differentiate from other species in the same family. One example of this is Tedania klausi which shares the bright orange coloring with T. ignus. Both species have similar spicule sizes. However, they can be differentiated by the more defined volcano shaped columns with a single osculum in Tedania klausi. (Dunlap and Pawlik, 1996; Wulff, 2006)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range length
    1 to 30 cm
    0.39 to 11.81 in


Often within the class Demospongiae, sponges brood embryos and eventually release parenchymella larvae. The larvae of T. ignus have a flagella tuft which it uses to swim while finding a suitable space for settlement. Larvae can respond to light to a certain extent to guide their search but that their eventual settlement is largely attributed to the water currents and conditions. Once the larvae find a suitable substrate location they will settle and metamorphose into adults. This transformation and growth period involves four basic stages: the formation of functional areas including, choanocyte chambers, mesohyl, pinacoderms, ostia and the initial stages of oscules; maturation of functional tissues, increasing complexity of skeletal structure and canal system; remodeling of mature tissue; and the general increase in size. The growth rate of a sponge is largely dependent on the environmental conditions, specifically light, food and space. ("Demosponge", 2002; Maldonado and Young, 1996; Simpson, 1984)


While T. ignus does not display specific mating behavior, most species in the class Demospongiae are capable of both asexual and sexual reproduction. The method of reproduction varies on environmental factors such as physical or biological disturbances. Furthermore, sponges are incredibly adept at regeneration. (Simpson, 1984; Tanaka-Ichihara and Wantanabe, 1985)

Sponges, Tedania ignus included, do not have true reproductive organs. However, there are multiple ways sponges use to reproduce including, larval metamorphosis, differentiation of tissue, production of gemmules and budding. In asexual reproduction the gemmules are an aggregation of mesohyl cells. Typically 8 to 12 eggs are in each brooded group at the beginning of the reproductive period. The production of gemmules is seasonal and varies among species. In T. ignus larvae release occurs from late April through August. Larvae are released through the ectosome which is the dermal layer. (Battershill and Bergquist, 1985; Maldonado and Young, 1996; Simpson, 1984)

  • Breeding season
  • Range number of offspring
    15 to 20
  • Range time to independence
    48 to 72 hours

Tedania ignus does not have any parental care; once the gametes are released the sessile parent has no further role. (Battershill and Bergquist, 1985)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement


The lifespan of an individual organism is difficult to quantify because of the regeneration and asexual reproduction. (Simpson, 1984)


Tedania ignus responds to various experimental stimuli through a reaction in the oscules. For example, a reduction in hydrostatic pressure caused partial oscular closure. Fire sponges were not affected by electric stimuli or by slight changes in pH of the surrounding water. Finally, stretching the oscule for short periods resulted in contraction; however, it did not contract if stretched for longer periods of time. ("Demosponge", 2002; Simpson, 1984)

Tedania ignus is a sessile organism in the adult stage. In the larval stage T. ignus is flagellar and can swim to an appropriate location for settlement. However, the swimming abilities are rather limited and often the settlement site is determined by water currents and turbulence in the area. In similar sponge species larvae can swim several millimeters per second. Tedania ignus is known for its ability to successfully over grow other sponge species when competing for space. (Engel and Pawlik, 2005; Maldonado and Young, 1996; Warburton, 1996)

Communication and Perception

As in all Porifera, fire sponges lack a nervous system and therefore have little ability to communicate or perceive the outside environment. However there is evidence that larvae have the ability to respond to light as an indicator for determining the final location of settlement. While not confirmed one theory is that the posterior flagelar tuft which provides locomotor capabilities may contain pigment granules used for photoresponse. (Maldonado and Young, 1996)

Food Habits

Tedania ignus is a filter feeder consuming small and large planktonic particles. One study found the specific filtration rate of T. ignus to be 1597 milliliters per hour per gram of tissue. It also had significantly higher filtration rates when fed a mix of different phytoplankton. (Pererson, et al., 2006)


Sponges have adapted a variety of predatory defenses including, tough fibrous components, noxious chemical substances and mineralized sclercites. Diketopiperazines were previously ascribed to T. ignus but these chemicals were found to be produced by a bacterium thought to be a Microccus species. Studies have also found inactive or mildly cytotoxic components which may have tumor-inhibitory characteristics. As a cryptic sponge living in either mangrove patches or under coral rubble fire sponges have weaker defenses than conspicuous reef sponges and are favored by predators. There are several specialized fish and non-fish predators that have specialized to overcome the defenses of T. ignus. (Dunlap and Pawlik, 1996; Muller, 2003; Pawlik, et al., 1995; Schmitz, et al., 1983; Wulff, 2006)

Ecosystem Roles

Tedania ignus is a facultative mutualist with red mangroves, by both providing the plant with a source of nitrogen and protecting the roots from root boring isopods. Tedania ignus profits by having a physically stable and conspicuous habitat. Furthermore, fire sponges have been found to play an important role in the conservation of biological diversity. A decrease in biomass of T. ignus and other suspension feeders in combination with an increase in nitrogen and phosphorous pollution have resulted in devastating phytoplankton and cyano bacteria blooms in the Florida Bay area. These blooms have led to the deterioration of the ecosystem and loss of biodiversity in the estuary. In addition marine sponges as a whole serve a crucial role to the overall reef system by stabilizing physically damaged reefs, nutrient cycling, providing a food source and acting as primary producers. (Bell, 2008; Engel and Pawlik, 2005; Pererson, et al., 2006)

Mutualist Species
  • Red mangroves
Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Variety of Bacteria

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Unlike other sponge species T. ignus is not a directly commercial itself. Instead, it helps control phytoplankton blooms which can be detrimental to the overall ecosystem and have a negative impact on commercially relevant species. T. ignus, along with other sponges are being investigated for potential pharmacological uses from the bioactive compounds with antiviral and antibacterial characteristics. ("Demosponge", 2002; Pererson, et al., 2006)

  • Positive Impacts
  • research and education
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no data on the number of people that suffer from contact dermatitis as a result of an encounter with T. ignus but it may be a health hazard. (Schmitz, et al., 1983)

Conservation Status

Tedania ignus is not listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN), The United States Federal list of endangered species, or by CITES species database. This is likely due to a lack of research that has been conducted on the size of populations. (Pererson, et al., 2006)


Mary McCarthy (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Renee Mulcrone (editor), Special Projects.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


reproduction that is not sexual; that is, reproduction that does not include recombining the genotypes of two parents


the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.


used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.

colonial growth

animals that grow in groups of the same species, often refers to animals which are not mobile, such as corals.


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


union of egg and spermatozoan


a method of feeding where small food particles are filtered from the surrounding water by various mechanisms. Used mainly by aquatic invertebrates, especially plankton, but also by baleen whales.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


photosynthetic or plant constituent of plankton; mainly unicellular algae. (Compare to zooplankton.)


an animal that mainly eats plankton


an animal which has a substance capable of killing, injuring, or impairing other animals through its chemical action (for example, the skin of poison dart frogs).

polarized light

light waves that are oriented in particular direction. For example, light reflected off of water has waves vibrating horizontally. Some animals, such as bees, can detect which way light is polarized and use that information. People cannot, unless they use special equipment.


structure produced by the calcium carbonate skeletons of coral polyps (Class Anthozoa). Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. They form the basis for rich communities of other invertebrates, plants, fish, and protists. The polyps live only on the reef surface. Because they depend on symbiotic photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, they cannot live where light does not penetrate.

saltwater or marine

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


non-motile; permanently attached at the base.

Attached to substratum and moving little or not at all. Synapomorphy of the Anthozoa


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


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