Globally intertwined evolutionary history of giant barrel sponges

Thomas Swierts*, Katja T.C.A. Peijnenburg, Christiaan A. de Leeuw, Johannes A.J. Breeuwer, Daniel F.R. Cleary, Nicole J. de Voogd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Three species of giant barrel sponge are currently recognized in two distinct geographic regions, the tropical Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific. In this study, we used molecular techniques to study populations of giant barrel sponges across the globe and assessed whether the genetic structure of these populations agreed with current taxonomic consensus or, in contrast, whether there was evidence of cryptic species. Using molecular data, we assessed whether giant barrel sponges in each oceanic realm represented separate monophyletic lineages. Giant barrel sponges from 17 coral reef systems across the globe were sequenced for mitochondrial (partial CO1 and ATP6 genes) and nuclear (ATPsβ intron) DNA markers. In total, we obtained 395 combined sequences of the mitochondrial CO1 and ATP6 markers, which resulted in 17 different haplotypes. We compared a phylogenetic tree constructed from 285 alleles of the nuclear intron ATPsβ to the 17 mitochondrial haplotypes. Congruent patterns between mitochondrial and nuclear gene trees of giant barrel sponges provided evidence for the existence of multiple reproductively isolated species, particularly where they occurred in sympatry. The species complexes in the tropical Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific, however, do not form separate monophyletic lineages. This rules out the scenario that one species of giant barrel sponge developed into separate species complexes following geographic separation and instead suggests that multiple species of giant barrel sponges already existed prior to the physical separation of the Indo-Pacific and tropical Atlantic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)933-945
JournalCoral Reefs
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Biogeography
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • Nuclear DNA
  • Porifera
  • Species complex
  • Xestospongia


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