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Nothing in (sponge) biology makes sense – except when based on holotypes

  • Dirk Erpenbeck (a1) (a2), Merrick Ekins (a3), Nicole Enghuber (a1), John N.A. Hooper (a3) (a4), Helmut Lehnert (a2) (a5), Angelo Poliseno (a1), Astrid Schuster (a1), Edwin Setiawan (a1) (a6), Nicole J. De Voogd (a7), Gert Wörheide (a1) (a8) and Rob W.M. Van Soest (a7)...

Sponge species are infamously difficult to identify for non-experts due to their high morphological plasticity and the paucity of informative morphological characters. The use of molecular techniques certainly helps with species identification, but unfortunately it requires prior reference sequences. Holotypes constitute the best reference material for species identification, however their usage in molecular systematics and taxonomy is scarce and frequently not even attempted, mostly due to their antiquity and preservation history. Here we provide case studies in which we demonstrate the importance of using holotype material to answer phylogenetic and taxonomic questions. We also demonstrate the possibility of sequencing DNA fragments out of century-old holotypes. Furthermore we propose the deposition of DNA sequences in conjunction with new species descriptions.

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      Nothing in (sponge) biology makes sense – except when based on holotypes
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Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: D. Erpenbeck, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Richard-Wagner Str. 10, 80333 Munich, Germany email:
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Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
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