CARLY LAIRD: For anyone who thought the cartoon character, SpongeBob SquarePants, was a bit far fetched, think again. Bernie Degnan is a professor of marine biology at the University of Queensland. He says although sea sponges certainly can’t talk and don’t have their own apartments under the sea, they are indeed clever marine animals.
BERNIE DEGNAN: Sponges just by their natural biology do things that we only wish we can engineer in a biomedical laboratory.
CARLY LAIRD: Professor Degnan and his colleagues have just completed the first genome sequence of the squelchy organisms. They found that sponges are very similar to our own gene make-up.
BERNIE DEGNAN: Turns out this sponge is the first marine organism in Australian waters to have its genome fully sequenced, assembled and annotated which means it’s been analysed to completion.
By having all that genomic information we’ve been able to start to tease apart the ways sponges actually work and funny, try and relate that back to our own condition. So even though sponges and humans have kind of split off from each over at least 600 million years ago, we can find a whole range of molecular characteristics, genes that are shared between sponges and humans.