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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Spongefest '07

Image from BIODIDAC

The answer’s fairly simple: Sponges feed like Protozoa,
And haven’t any enteron like other Metazoa;

Their ‘gastral cells’ are clusters of primaeval Collared Monads,

And their bodies have no traces of muscles, nerves or gonads.

Even their eggs are products of choanocyte divisions,

And therefore carry with them Choanoflagellate traditions:

Flagellate or Amoeboid, with collars or without,

They still are Collared Monads—though certainly more stout.

Walter Garstang (1985) - The Amphiblastula and the origin of sponges in Larval Forms and Other Zoological Verses (University of Chicago Press).

The latest of the the Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom (JMBA) is entirely dedicated to sponges. I believe this is a rather historic event, I doubt if ever before there have been so many Porifera publications (44 articles, 437 pages) in one place at one time. I think every sponge biologist in the world is an author or coauthor here. According to Van Soest's introduction to the special sponge issue:
It is proper and fitting that the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom comes forward with a special volume in its Journal covering these various sponge efforts. Right from the start of the Association, way back in 1884, and up to the present, the Journal has published sponge papers on a regular basis. Sponge fisheries and sponge culture were subjects addressed repeatedly in the earlier volumes of the Journal by E. Allen, the first secretary of the Association (1896), G.P. Bidder (1896, 1902) and L.R. Crawshay (1915, 1939). Sponge epigones such as A. Dendy and M. Burton discussed taxonomy, faunistics and ecology in the Journal and contributed to the authorative Plymouth Marine Fauna (e.g. Burton, 1957). Continuing along these lines, the volume presented here unites a series of 43 articles covering a wide range of sponge biodiversity studies, without pretending to delimit past or future eras of sponge research. As such it provides an overview of current sponge biodiversity research at this moment in time, and with 21 nationalities involved demonstrates the strongly international nature of sponge diversity science.
And just in case you forgot how cool sponges are and how they are so important, Van Soest opens the whole shebang with:
Sponges are an integral part of marine benthic communities with a high-impact role in benthic–pelagic coupling processes, as an important source of food for demersal grazers and predators, as hosts of a highly diverse microbial biomass, and as bio-eroders. Sponges provide age-old (hygienic) services to humans and continue to be of interest in modern times as sources of an unprecedented array of useful substances.

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