Demospongea (Order: Monaxonida)
Hamptonia is considered a primitive demosponge (Rigby, 1986). Demosponges, the same group that are harvested as bath sponges, represent the largest class of sponges today.
Hamptonia – unspecified, but it comes possibly from the town of Hampton in Virginia. This town is home of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, which Walcott helped to create when he became first chairman of the NACA Executive Committee in 1915 (predecessor of NASA).
bowerbanki – for British naturalist and palaeontologist James Scott Bowerbank (1797-1877), best known for his studies of British sponges.
Lectotype –USNM66493 (H. bowerbanki) in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Holotype –ROM44270 (H. elongata) in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.
Burgess Shale and vicinity: H. elongata Rigby and Collins, 2004 from the east side of Mount Field in Yoho National Park.
Other deposits: H. parva, from the Middle Cambrian Wheeler and Marjum Formations in Utah (Rigby et al., 2010); H. christi from the Lower Ordovician of Morocco (Botting, 2007).
Middle Cambrian, Bathyuriscus-Elrathina Zone to late Middle Cambrian Bolaspidella Assemblage Zone (approximately 505 million years ago).
Burgess Shale and vicinity: The Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge. The Trilobite Beds and Tulip Beds (S7) on Mount Stephen.
Other deposits: H. bowerbanki from the Middle Cambrian Wheeler and Marjum Formations in Utah (Rigby et al., 2010).
Brief history of research:
Hamptonia was described by Walcott in his 1920 monograph on the sponges from the Burgess Shale. Rigby (1986) redescribed the genus, considering it to be closely related to Leptomitus and included it among the monaxial demosponges. Rigby and Collins (2004) described a new species, H. elongata, from material recently collected by the Royal Ontario Museum on Mount Field.
Hamptonia is a medium to large sub-hemispherical to globose sponge. The skeleton is composed of simple spicules of two sizes. Bundles or singly spaced long (up to 1 cm) coarse spicules are orientated vertically upwards away from the wall. The space between these large spicules is filled by bundle of small thatched spicules. There is a narrow central cavity and the oscular opening is circular. Faint canals are visible parallel to the long spicules that would have allowed water through the skeleton. Hamptonia may be confused with the central disc of Choia. However, Hamptonia has spicules that are much finer than Choia. H. elongata mainly differs from H. bowerbanki in that it has a branched skeleton.
Hamptonia bowerbanki represents only 0.09 % of the Walcott Quarry community (Caron and Jackson, 2008). Hamptonia elongata is known from a single specimen.
Hamptonia would have lived attached to the sea floor. Particles of organic matter were extracted from the water as they passed through canals in the sponge’s wall.