Difference Between Sponge and Coral (With Table)

When it comes to marine invertebrates, two essential terms confide with the mind, which is Sponge and Coral. These marine invertebrates belong to many principal botanical divisions like phylum and cnidaria, but despite their many similarities, they stood the time of distinguishing features that make each cell different and vibrant from each other. It is very enlightening for the world of science to learn about two marine invertebrates that disclose many differences despite having a common ground and a common domain.

Sponge vs Coral

The difference between Sponge and Coral is that it develops its characteristics and motion in marine life based on the different domains they belong to in the scientific world. They also differ in physiological terms as corals have stinging cells on their tentacles that allow them to prey on food, whereas Sponges do not have such a digestive system making them live on water flow in their body. 

Sponges are known to survive in freshwater, but they also have characteristics to survive in sea salt water or shallow water with a great depth. Sponges categorize themselves in scientific terms of marine animals and belong to the Porifera phylum as they comprise two layers of cells on their body structure. 

Corals are known to have identical features as polyps that are multicellular organisms but are considered as single organisms. They are also closely related to jellyfish with a distinction for various other fishes and cnidarians. People in tropical and subtropical areas of marine habitat find them often.

Comparison Table Between Sponge and Coral

Parameter of ComparisonSpongeCoral 
Phylum Sponges belong to the Porifera phylum. Coral belongs to the Cnidaria phylum. 
HabitatFound in a very deep shallow sea. Less likely to be found in the very deep sea. 
Survival Protection They protect themselves using toxins. They protect themselves using their tentacles. 
Calcium CarbonateThey do not secrete calcium carbonate. They secrete calcium carbonate for coral reefs. 
Structure The structure appears like plants with pores. The structure of their body is sac-like. 

What is Sponge?

Sponges are a type of marine invertebrates but lack tissues and organs such as the nervous system, digestive system, respiratory system, unlike many other marina habitat animals. Instead, it is built with numerous pores for its food intake in a water flow system to enter and exit its body structure and also provide it with the necessary oxygen for survival. 

The shape of sponges is very adaptive and are built differently to maximize the water flow efficiency in their body. Their build-up comprises two layers of cells. There is a gelatinous matrix between these two layers of cells, giving it a needle-like structure. Its inner skeleton is made up of calcium carbonate. 

As said, Sponges have numerous pores for the water flow in their body that carries food and oxygen, and those pores are exclusively lined with flagella (cells). These flagella take the required amount of food and water to the pores with then open and close for intake and excretion. This water flow system is built in their body to support all its survival functions and movement. 

What is Coral?

Corals stand with a difference from sponges in their anatomy, reproduction, and other body functions. Their body structure is built differently and is more complex compared to sponges. Its sac-like structure called a polyp, along with surrounding tentacles, acts as a main opening for the food and eliminating of wastes from their body. Coral is a type of marine organism that lives in groups along a vast amount of space in the sea bed. 

Their species belong to the Cnidaria phylum have identical features like anemones, but they can be of different types with a little touch of other distinctive characteristics. Coral comes across as sea plants sometimes or as blue corals or sea pens. Moreover, they form coral reefs from their body by secreting limestone or scientifically referred to as calcium carbonate. These coral reefs later act as the sac-like structure around the coral bodies to protect them. 

It is also a common association that involves coral to have a symbiotic connection with algae in the marine habitat. These algae provide the necessary food for the corals that are produced by the algae through the process of photosynthesis. The corals maintain the balance with algae by providing them protection and shelter along with other enrichments for growth and development.

Main Differences Between Sponge and Coral

  1. Sponge and Coral are both different in the animal phyla category, where sponge categories under phyla Porifer and corals belong to the phyla cnidaria. 
  2. Sponges are known to have a lack of tissues, organs, and other functional systems in their bodies, whereas Corals are single organisms with a functional system like digestive and reproductive systems. 
  3. Sponges have numerous pores to take in food and excrete the waste, whereas Corals have a single main opening in the centre of their body for feeding and elimination. 
  4. Sponges are usually found in the sea bed or ocean floor, sticking to hard rocks or other aquatic organisms, whereas Corals are generally found in the ocean in any tropical or subtropical areas. 
  5. Sponges feed on bacteria and other organic matters found in the ocean water, whereas most Corals require the energy of sunlight to grow and expand.


There are various distinctive reasons why Sponges and Corals differ despite being both part of animal phyla and an important part of marine invertebrates as organisms. They are both essential parts of ecosystem balance and contribute distinctively to marine habitats.

There are more than 8500 species of corals and coral reefs found across various ocean beds in the world, but sponges are usually categorized into five types to ease up the study and knowledge about them. Their differences in growth, reproduction, digestion, and occurrence balance out the lives of other aquatic animals and plants and build green and clean seawater.


  1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00301960
  2. https://www.jstor.org/stable/24333501
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