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Demosponges are a rich natural source of unusual lipids, some of which are of interest as geochemical biomarkers. Although demosponges are animals, they often host dense communities of microbial symbionts, and it is therefore unclear which lipids can be synthesized by the animal de novo, and which require input from the microbial community. To address this uncertainty, we analyzed the lipids of Amphimdeon queenslandica, the only demosponge with a published genome. We correlated the genetic and lipid repertoires of A. queenslandica to identify which biomarkers could potentially be synthesized and/or modified by the sponge. The fatty acid profile of A. queenslandica is dominated by an unusual Δ5,9 fatty acid (cis‐5,9‐hexacosadienoic acid)—similar to what has been found in other members of the Amphimdeon genus—while the sterol profile is dominated by C27‐C29 derivatives of cholesterol. Based on our analysis of the A. queenslandica genome, we predict that this sponge can synthesize sterols de novo, but it lacks critical genes necessary to synthesize basic saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. However, it does appear to have the genes necessary to modify simpler products into a more complex “algal‐like” assemblage of unsaturated fatty acids. Ultimately, our results provide additional support for the poriferan affinity of 24‐isopropylcholestanes in Neoproterozoic‐age rocks (the “sponge biomarker” hypothesis) and suggest that some algal proxies in the geochemical record could also have animal contributions.
Geobiology – Wiley
Published: Nov 1, 2017
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