Hexane, chloroform, and methanol extracts of 18 species of antarctic sponges were tested for their ability to induce sustained tube-foot retraction in the antarctic spongivorous sea star Perknaster fuscus. Extracts were imbedded in silicone and used to coat the tip of a glass rod, which was allowed to contact an extended tube-foot. Retraction times were measured and compared with three controls: contact with a glass rod coated with a hexane extract of fish (feeding stimulant), contact with the glass rod alone (mechanical control), and contact with the glass rod coated with silicone alone (silicone control). Only extracts of the sponge Mycale acerata did not elicit significantly longer tube-foot retraction times than controls for at least one of the three organic extracts. Hexane sponge extracts elicited the lowest levels of significant tube-foot responses, with only 39% of the sponge species tested showing activity in this fraction. In contrast, chloroform and methanol extracts elicited a significant tube-foot retraction response in 73% and 78% of the species tested, respectively. This indicates that in this assay repellent metabolites are generally more polar substances. It remains to be determined that secondary metabolites are responsible for all of the tube-foot retraction responses detected in sea stars exposed to sponge extracts; bioactive secondary metabolites have been isolated from a number of these antarctic sponges. It may be of ecological significance that the two rapidly growing sponges, Homaxinella balfourensis and Mycale acerata, were either not repellent or had low repellency, and that M. acerata is the primary dietary item of Perknaster fuscus. © 1994 Plenum Publishing Corporation.