Molecular responses of sponges to climate change

We live in a time of concern regarding predicted environmental damage due to climate change, i.e. sea temperature increase and a reduction in ocean pH. Such changes will have severe consequences for at least some marine organisms. Developments in molecular and genomic techniques allow for genome-wide comparisons of genes and proteins that may be impacted by such changes with knock-on consequences for cell and organism function. Understanding of impacts at the molecular level is important to understand how organisms will respond to changes and to develop conservation strategies accordingly. Despite sponges having a very simple body plan, they possess gene diversity and genome complexity that mirrors other metazoa. The cellular stress response and adaptation of sponges to increased temperature and low pH are varied and diverse with many genes implicated and their expression patterns complex. Survival thresholds differ between species in their tolerance to temperature increase and lowering of ocean pH. The expression patterns of a variety of genes have been investigated particularly with regard to change in temperature but in few sponge species. Likewise genome and transcriptome data exists for few species, and even fewer studies focus on applying these approaches to stress response. Despite the requirement for more studies in this area, existing data suggests that some sponge species will be severely impacted if climate change predictions hold, while other species will adapt and thrive.

Aguilar-Camacho J. M. & McCormack G. P., 2017. Molecular responses of sponges to climate change. In: Carballo J. L. & Bell J. J. (Eds.), Climate Change, Ocean Acidification and Sponges, pp 79-104. Springer, Cham. Chapter (restricted access).

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