The Burgess Shale

Hamptoniella foliata

A small, three-dimensional sponge with numerous canals

Hamptoniella foliata (ROM 43816) – Holotype. Complete specimen. Specimen height = 20 mm. Specimen dry – direct light (left), wet – polarized light (right). Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen.

© Royal Ontario Museum. Photos: Jean-Bernard Caron


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Porifera
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Demospongea (Order: Monaxonida)
Species name: Hamptoniella foliata

Hamptoniella is a primitive demosponge, with a type of skeleton considered transitional between Hamptonia and 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: 2004

Hamptoniella – unspecified; possibly from the town of Hampton in Virginia (see Hamptonia). The Latin suffix, ella is added to Hampton to form a diminutive.

foliata – from the Latin folia, “leaf,” in reference to the leaf like aspect of the sponge.

Type Specimens: Holotypes –ROM43816 (H. foliata wrongly referencedROM48816 in Rigby and Collins, 2004) andROM44285 (H. hirsuta) in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: H. hirsuta Rigby and Collins, 2004 from the Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen.

Other deposits: none.

Age & Localities:

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

The Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

This sponge was described by Rigby and Collins (2004) based on new material collected by the Royal Ontario Museum.



Hamptoniella foliata is a relatively small sponge, with its body shape varying from funnel-shaped to turbinate. The skeleton is composed of simple and straight spicules that are pointed at both ends (oxeas). The axial zone of the sponge does not have a central cavity (spongocoel) and there is no large opening (osculum). Instead a number of subvertical and relatively large canals are present in the axial area. Smaller sized canals diverge from the larger canals towards the sides and the top of the sponge. Spicules tend to be clustered and parallels to canals. H. hirsuta differs from H. foliata, by appearing more spinose.


H. foliata has been described based on 3 specimens and H. hirsuta based on a single specimen.

Maximum Size:
24 mm


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

Hamptoniella 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.


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): 155 p.

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