Skeleton formation in soft corals and calcareous sponges

Calcium carbonate skeletal elements produced by marine animals range from microscopic to massive, can be stunningly beautiful and often have immense ecological importance. While the relatively well understood hexacoral biomineralization involves formation of solid aragonite structures, the octocorals produce tiny calcite spicules embedded in their soft bodies. Intriguingly, calcareous sponges also produce spicules built of calcite, and the evolutionary significance of this similarity is unclear.

This project will be carried in collaboration between the Adamska lab at the ANU, the Miller/Moya lab at the JCU (both within the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies) and the Woerheide/Voigt lab at the LMU (Munich, Germany).

The project will involve investigation into cellular and genetic background of spicule formation in the calcareous sponge Sycon capricorn and in a number of octocoral species, as well as the potential effects of ocean acidification on calcite biomineralization on the Great Barrier Reef.