M.membranacea bears a superficial resemblance to Electra pilosa, which has a similar colony form and colour. M. membranacea can be distinguished by its rectangular zooids, compared to the rounded zooids of E.pilosa. Zooids of E.pilosa also have a characteristic large central spine.
Species of Membranipora are easily confused with those of the related genus Conopeum. Membranipora species may be distinguished by the presence of a twinned ancestrula (the founding zooid), compared to the single ancestrula of Conopeum species. However, the ancestrula region is frequently missing from colonies, making this character insufficient to distinguish species. Conopeum reticulum has thicker calcification than Membranipora species. C. reticulum may also be distinguished from other littoral and sublittoral species in the same family by the presence of paired triangular chambers (kenozooids) at the end of each zooid.
Conopeum and Membranipora species also differ in their ecology. M. membranacea is the only species of its genus to occur in British waters, where it forms extensive colonies, normally on Laminaria. Membranipora tuberculata, which colonises Sargassum, and Membranipora tenuis, a tropical species, are, on rare occasions, washed up on south-western shores of the UK. Both of the British species of Conopeum colonise hard substrata or estuarine plants, but would not be expected to occur on marine algae.
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