Newly-discovered mushroom-shaped animals 'unclassifiable' in current tree of life

The two species have been named Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides

Scientists have discovered mushroom-shaped alien-like creatures dredged from the depths of the sea strait between mainland Australia and Tasmania.

The two species were called Dendrogramma, after researchers found that they could not be categorised in any existing phylum – large families of living things.

They are made up of an outer skin and inner stomach separated by a thick layer of jelly-like substance, and were caught at depths of 400-1,000 metres off the eastern area of the Bass Strait during a 1986 cruise.

Danish Lead Scientist Dr Jorgen Oleson, from the University of Copenhagen, said: “New mushroom-shaped animals from the deep sea have been discovered which could not be placed in any recognised group of animals.

“Two species are recognised and current evidence suggest that they represent an early branch on the tree of life, with similarities to the 600 million-year-old extinct Ediacara fauna.”

 

The species have now been named Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides, with all of the team’s research detailed in a paper in the journal Public Library of Science ONE.

Their discovery could totally reshape the animal family tree, the National Geographic has said, with the creatures a contender for one of its earliest branches.

Leonid Moroz, a Neurobiologist at the University of Florida, said the new species could “rewrite whole textbooks in zoology.”

The team is now expected to look for other examples of the mushroom-like animals.

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