The Burgess Shale

Falospongia falata

A funnel-shaped sponge with a characteristic grid-like wall

Falospongia falata (ROM 40317) – Holotype (bottom left). Specimen with basal section missing showing the major tracts of spicules. Specimen height = 35 mm. Specimen dry – polarized light. Walcott Quarry talus.

© Royal Ontario Museum. Photo: Jean-Bernard Caron


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Porifera
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Demospongea (Order: Monaxonida)
Species name: Falospongia falata

Falospongia is considered a primitive demosponge related to Hazelia (Rigby, 1986). Demosponges, the same group that are harvested as bath sponges, represent the largest class of sponges today.

Described by: Rigby
Description date: 1986

Falospongia – from the Latin fala, “scaffold,” and spongia, “sponge.” The name refers to the open framework of the skeleton.

falata – from the Latin fala, “scaffold,” and tus, “pertaining to.” The name makes reference to the grid-like skeleton of this sponge.

Type Specimens: Holotypes –ROM40317 (F. falata),ROM44271 (F. ramosa) in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: F. ramosa Rigby and Collins, 2004 from the Collins Quarry on Fossil Ridge and the Northwest shoulder of Mount Stephen and an indeterminate species F. sp. from the Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge (Rigby and Collins, 2004).

Other deposits: none.

Age & Localities:

Middle Cambrian, Bathyuriscus-Elrathina Zone (approximately 505 million years ago).
Principal localities:

F. falata is only known from the Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Rigby (1986) described the type species of this new genus based on one specimen from talus material collected below the Walcott Quarry. This genus is considered closely related to Hazelia and Crumillospongia and the three genera are placed in the Family Hazeliidae.



F. falata is a small funnel shaped sponge. The skeleton is composed of simple vertical and horizontal spicules that thatch together to form strong vertical and irregular horizontal tracts. These tracts are parallel to canals that extend upward and outward. The canals would have allowed water through the skeleton and into the central cavity. F. falata has branches that are more open and funnel shaped than the club-shaped branches of F. ramosa.


Falospongia is very rare in the Walcott Quarry and represents only 0.01% of the community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
65 mm


Life habits: Epibenthic, Sessile
Feeding strategies: Suspension feeder
Ecological Interpretations:

Falospongia 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.


CARON, J.-B. AND D. A. JACKSON. 2008. Paleoecology of the Greater Phyllopod Bed community, Burgess Shale. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 258: 222-256.

RIGBY, J. K. 1986. Sponges of the Burgess shale (Middle Cambrian), British Columbia. Palaeontographica Canadiana, 2: 105p.

RIGBY, J. K. AND D. COLLINS. 2004. Sponges of the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale and Stephen Formations, British Columbia. Royal Ontario Museum Contributions in Science (1): 155p.

Other Links: