This is one of the most ecologically important sponges in Alaska and perhaps the most thoroughly studied sponge species in the North Pacific Ocean. Due to its rigid skeleton, this species is an important structural component of the sponge reefs reported along the Pacific Coast of Canada (Conway et al., 1991, 2005; Krautter et al., 2001) and more recently in southern Southeast Alaska. Juvenile golden king crabs (Lithodes aequispina
) use the spongocoel as refuge habitat in the Aleutian Islands (Stone, 2006) and in the Bering Sea Canyons (Stone, unpubl. data, 2007). The bigmouth sculpin (Hemitripterus bolini
) deposits its eggs in the spongocoel in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska (Busby3). This species is preyed upon by the sea stars Hippasteria
spp. and Poraniopsis inflata
in the eastern Gulf of Alaska. Aphrocallistes vastus
can be distinguished from the very similar Heterochone
calyx calyx by the lack of pinular hexactins on the inner (atrial) surface and by the possession of very robust oxyhexasters with primary rays subsumed in the swollen centrum.
It is found in the North Pacific Ocean, locally common and abundant in some areas; in Alaska from the Bering Sea to Southeast Alaska; elsewhere, it is found from Japan to Baja Mexico.