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Renard, Emmanuelle; Leys, Sally P.; Wörheide, Gert and Borchiellini, Carole (2018): Understanding Animal Evolution: The Added Value of Sponge Transcriptomics and Genomics: The disconnect between gene content and body plan evolution. In: Bioessays, Vol. 40, No. 9, 1700237

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Sponges are important but often-neglected organisms. The absence of classical animal traits (nerves, digestive tract, and muscles) makes sponges challenging for non-specialists to work with and has delayed getting high quality genomic data compared to other invertebrates. Yet analyses of sponge genomes and transcriptomes currently available have radically changed our understanding of animal evolution. Sponges are of prime evolutionary importance as one of the best candidates to form the sister group of all other animals, and genomic data are essential to understand the mechanisms that control animal evolution and diversity. Here we review the most significant outcomes of current genomic and transcriptomic analyses of sponges, and discuss limitations and future directions of sponge transcriptomic and genomic studies.

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