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Publication - Professor Martin Genner

    Minimalist barcodes for sponges

    a case study classifying African freshwater Spongillida


    Erpenbeck, D, Steiner, M, Schuster, A, Genner, MJ, Pronzato, R, Ruthensteiner, B, van den Spiegel, D, van Soest, R & Worheide, G, 2019, ‘Minimalist barcodes for sponges: a case study classifying African freshwater Spongillida’. Genome, vol 62., pp. 1-10


    African sponges, particularly freshwater sponges, are understudied relative to demosponges in most other geographical regions. Freshwater sponges (Spongillida) likely share a common ancestor; however, their evolutionary history, particularly during their radiation into endemic and allegedly cosmopolitan groups, is unclear. Freshwater sponges of at least 58 species of 17 genera and four families are described from Central and Eastern Africa, but the diversity is underestimated due to limited distinguishable morphological features. The discovery of additional cryptic species is very likely with the use of molecular techniques such as DNA barcoding. The Royal Museum of Central Africa (MRAC, Tervuren, Belgium) hosts one of the largest collections of (Central) African freshwater sponge type material. Type specimens in theory constitute ideal targets for molecular taxonomy; however, the success is frequently hampered by DNA degradation and deamination, which are a consequence of suboptimal preservation techniques. Therefore, we genotyped African demosponge holotype material of the MRAC with specific short primers suitable for degenerated tissue and compare the results with the current, morphology-based classification. Our results demonstrate the utility of minimalistic barcodes for identification of sponges, potentially enabling efficient identification of individuals in taxonomic or metabarcoding studies, and highlight inconsistencies in the current freshwater sponge classification.

    Full details in the University publications repository