Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 377, Issue 3, pp 341–351 | Cite as

Sponge digestive system diversity and evolution: filter feeding to carnivory

  • Nelly Godefroy
  • Emilie Le Goff
  • Camille  Martinand-Mari
  • Khalid Belkhir
  • Jean VaceletEmail author
  • Stephen BaghdiguianEmail author


Sponges are an ancient basal life form, so understanding their evolution is key to understanding all metazoan evolution. Sponges have very unusual feeding mechanisms, with an intricate network of progressively optimized filtration units: from the simple choanocyte lining of a central cavity, or spongocoel, to more complex chambers and canals. Furthermore, in a single evolutionary event, a group of sponges transitioned to carnivory. This major evolutionary transition involved replacing the filter-feeding apparatus with mobile phagocytic cells that migrate collectively towards the trapped prey. Here, we focus on the diversity and evolution of sponge nutrition systems and the amazing adaptation to carnivory.


Sponge Porifera Evolution Choanocyte Filtration Carnivory 



We thank Laurence Meslin (CNRS, “Plateforme Communication Scientifique Visuelle – ISEM”), for the drawing and elaborating the figures. For the transcriptomic data, we benefited from the Montpellier Bioinformatics Biodiversity platform supported by the LabEx CeMEB, an ANR “Investissements d’avenir” program (ANR-10-LABX-04-01).

Compliance with ethical statements

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ISEM, CNRS, EPHE, IRDUniv MontpellierMontpellierFrance
  2. 2.IMBE, CNRS, IRD, Station Marine d’EndoumeAix Marseille Univ, Univ AvignonMarseilleFrance

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