Scope: The phylum Porifera (sponges) consists of about 8,000 described species, with an estimated species number of more than 15,000 . The Sponge Barcoding Project (SBP) aims to cover all sponge taxa, from classes Demospongiae, Hexactinellida, and Calcarea, and ranging in habitat from the marine intertidal to the deep-sea, as well as freshwater. Obtaining DNA-signature sequences from 8,000 taxa will provide a platform from which more extensive sampling can be directed. Recently described type specimens curated in associated museums are barcoded first and supplemented with unequivocally identifiable taxa. Fresh material of such taxa will be collected by individual groups involved in the SBP and will be taxonomically identified by an expert before sequencing.
The Sponge Barcoding Database (SBD; see 'Data' button) is the prime access point for DNA signature sequences together with information on conventional morphological taxonomic characters of sponges. This unique combination of sponge-specific conventional taxonomic information and their DNA signature sequences is crucial for the use on sponges and the distinguishing feature to all other DNA databases.
Purpose: Sponges are the most basal metazoans and are notoriously difficult to identify. However, as a group they are highly diverse, ecologically important and of significant commercial importance to the pharmaceutical and biomaterials industry. Sponge barcodes provide a set of indispensible tools for the identification of sponge species, and greatly aid taxonomists, ecologists, and will enhance the discovery of drug-producing species.
Background: This is the first worldwide barcoding project on any non-bilaterian taxon, and covers the complete taxonomic range of Porifera. Several smaller pilot studies have recently been conducted independently, with various levels of resolution and success [2,3]. It has been shown, for example, that frequently co-occuring, congeneric species are difficult to separate with the standard COI barcoding fragment . However, a more variable downstream fragment appears to bear adequate resolution . Therefore, a concerted effort is now timely, and warrants comprehensive, phylum-wide coverage.
 Hooper, J. N. A. & Van Soest, R. W. M. (2002) Systema Porifera. Guide to the Supraspecific Classification of Sponges and Spongiomorphs (Porifera) (Plenum, New York).
 Duran, S. & Rutzler, K. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 40(1), 292-297.
 Wörheide, G. (2006) Marine Biology 148, 907-912.
 Erpenbeck, D., Hooper, J. N. A. & Wörheide, G. (2006) Molecular Ecology Notes 6, 550–553.