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Trained as a researcher, my research focused on marine sponges, using genetics to unlock some of its mysteries!

Key Publications

Transcriptomics along a sponge life cycle

This is my doctoral dissertation, defended at the University of Barcelona on September 19th, 2014. 

The main objective of this thesis was to study the biology, ecology and gene expression of the Mediterranean sponge Crella elegans along its life cycle. This served a variety of purposes: 1) to provide additional knowledge on sponge reproduction with emphasis on the order Poecilosclerida, 2) to describe the life cycle of Crella elegans and its reproductive elements, 3) to optimize NGS techniques in poriferans, 4) to generate and characterize the first encrustring sponge transcriptome and 5) to provide the first overview of some physiology processes along the life cycle of a sponge.

A NGS approach to the encrusting Mediterranean sponge Crella elegans (Porifera, Demospongiae, Poecilosclerida): transcriptome sequencing, characterization and overview of the gene expression along three life cycle stages

Pérez-Porro AR, Navarro-Gómez D, Uriz MJ, Giribet G (2013)

Molecular Ecology Resources 13:3, 494-509


Sponges can be dominant organisms in many marine and freshwater habitats where they play essential ecological roles. They also represent a key group to address important questions in early metazoan evolution. Recent approaches for improving knowledge on sponge biological and ecological functions as well as on animal evolution have focused on the genetic toolkits involved in ecological responses to environmental changes (biotic and abiotic), development and reproduction. These approaches are possible thanks to newly available, massive sequencing technologies-such as the Illumina platform, which facilitate genome and transcriptome sequencing in a cost-effective manner. Here we present the first NGS (next-generation sequencing) approach to understanding the life cycle of an encrusting marine sponge. For this we sequenced libraries of three different life cycle stages of the Mediterranean sponge Crella elegans and generated de novo transcriptome assemblies. Three assemblies were based on sponge tissue of a particular life cycle stage, including non-reproductive tissue, tissue with sperm cysts and tissue with larvae. The fourth assembly pooled the data from all three stages. By aggregating data from all the different life cycle stages we obtained a higher total number of contigs, contigs with blast hit and annotated contigs than from one stage-based assemblies. In that multi-stage assembly we obtained a larger number of the developmental regulatory genes known for metazoans than in any other assembly. We also advance the differential expression of selected genes in the three life cycle stages to explore the potential of RNA-seq for improving knowledge on functional processes along the sponge life cycle.

Comparative description of ten transcriptomes of newly sequenced invertebrates and efficiency estimation of genomic sampling in non-model taxa

Riesgo A, Andrade SC, Sharma P, Novo M, Pérez-Porro AR, Vahtera V, González VL, Kawauchi GY, Giribet G (2012)

Frontiers in Zoology 9, 33

DOI: 10.1186/1742-9994-9-33

Traditionally, genomic or transcriptomic data have been restricted to a few model or emerging model organisms, and to a handful of species of medical and/or environmental importance. Next-generation sequencing techniques have the capability of yielding massive amounts of gene sequence data for virtually any species at a modest cost. Here we provide a comparative analysis of de novo assembled transcriptomic data for ten non-model species of previously understudied animal taxa.

MS in Biodiversity

University of Barcelona

Thesis: Reproduction of Hemimycale columella (Demospongiae: Poecilosclerida): embryo development and larval ultrastructure.

PhD in Biology

University of Barcelona

Harvard University Visitor Scholar


Dissertation: Transcriptomics along a sponge life cycle.

Research associate

National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution
May 2015 - present

Working with the project PORIPATH that seeks to sequence sponge and symbiont genomes and transcriptomes to document the biodiversity of their metabolic pathways, emphasizing changes in gene expression during larval development and metabolic exchanges between hosts and symbionts.

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