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These sponges aren’t for cleaning. A play.

Last week members of the Mariani Lab group’s SpongeDNA team visited the Horniman Museum and Gardens to perform tank experiments. These tank experiments were designed to compare the degradation rate of environmental DNA to the degradation rate of DNA captured by sponges. We suspect that the sponges will expedite the degradation of DNA captured in their tissue due to digestion. Hopefully, sponges will prove to be excellent fine-scale natural samplers of environmental DNA.

(above) Tanks stocked with sponges and fish for the experiment!

(right) Lynsey Harper (left; Mariani lab) and Belén Arias (right; NHM London) preforming a sponge biopsy.

This was the first time the SpongeDNA team worked with sponges (shhhh! I won’t tell if you don’t.) and in an aquarium. So, I felt it was appropriate to provide a drama to convey (read: exaggerate) the ‘drama’ of doing molecular work in a new, unfamiliar setting.


(above left) This royal gramma (Gramma loreto) was a unique species in one of the tank treatments. (above right) Fijian reef tank that is an exhibit at Horniman Museum and Gardens. We also sampled water and sponges from this tank for curiosity’s sake.

We took precautions to deter DNA contaminates. The Horniman aquarists also took precautions, no matter how crazy paranoid they may have sounded (thanks team!). After a week of sampling eDNA and sponges, we were molecular-sampling-sponge-biopsy pros and possibly even amateur aquarists. We had so much fun preforming tank experiments for the SpongeDNA project and can’t wait to get our hands on the data! Gloved hands preferably.


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