Studying the Genetic Structure of Sponge Populations

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  • Abstract The sponge reefs, found only off the coast of British Columbia, Canada, are a unique and alien deep sea ecosystem that is not well understood and is threatened by human activities. Here I developed a genetic barcode to differentiate between the two most common sponges on the reefs, Aphrocallistes vastus and Heterochone calyx. I also developed microsatellite and mitochondrial marker systems to determine the population genetics of A. vastus to see if there is genetic structure at the reef level in the Strait of Georgia. Both the microsatellite and mitochondrial markers indicate that the reefs in the Strait of Georgia are all part of a single genetically homogeneous population. It does not appear that asexual reproduction in A. vastus is a significant process in the growth of reefs. To determine the mechanisms by which gene flow is occurring between reefs, further investigations into larval behaviour are needed.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 International