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

Dirk Erpenbeck*, Merrick Ekins, Nicole Enghuber, John N.A. Hooper, Helmut Lehnert, Angelo Poliseno, Astrid Schuster, Edwin Setiawan, Nicole J. De Voogd, Gert Wörheide, Rob W.M. Van Soest

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-311
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016


  • Porifera
  • holotypes
  • molecular systematics
  • sponges
  • type material


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