Strange new deep-sea animal that is in a class of its own

 

In 1986 there was a discovery of a new deep-sea animal in the waters of Tasmania, but it has taken until now for that animal to be properly identified and named. The reason Tony Hakim is so interested in this creature is because it does not appear to fit into any animal group that we know of. Here we have the details of this strange new deep-sea animal that is in a class of its own.

Tony Hakim's New deep-sea animal

An unusual new deep-sea animal. Via Tony Hakim

This new deep-sea animal has been called Dendrogramma enigmatical and is a mushroom-shaped wonder. This species is unlike any other. Scientists have been unable to classify it as belonging to any existing group in the animal kingdom. However it does seem to be similar to some ancient species that became extinct long ago.

The translucent animal is only a few millimetres long. It has a small mouth at the bottom of its stalk-like appendage and a digestive system that branches out at the disc or mushroom cap-like area. It is thought that they feed on microbes which they are able to catch in mucus that is secreted from around their mouths. They also seem to be able to live separately without needing to be attached to another organism or surface. However the Dendrogramma enigmatical seems to be unable to swim as they have no means of propelling themselves through the water.

Tony Hakim's New deep-sea animal

Deep-sea creatures are some of the weirdest of the animal kingdom. Via Tony Hakim

Since their discovery in 1986, there have been no other reported sightings of these new deep-sea animals. The specimens that were discovered back then were preserved in formalin and ethanol, making analysing the genetics of the animals virtually impossible. This is why it has been so difficult to place the Dendrogramma enigmatical into a class and find out whether it may be related to other species. The study of their physical form has lead scientists to believe that they may represent a species from the very early beginnings of animal life. This is mainly due to the similarities found between the new deep-sea animal and fossils found of Albumares, Anfesta and Rugoconites. These fossil animals are thought to have lived between 635 and 540 million years ago in the Ediacaran Period.

Tony Hakim's New deep-sea animals

These tiny organisms may be a window into knowing more about the beginnings of life. Via Tony Hakim

In terms of their similarities to more modern species, they physically look like they could be related to ctenophores and cnidarians. However the Dendrogramma enigmatical is missing some of their key characteristics, such as stinging cells, which suggests that they are not closely related.

Another reason why this discovery is so exciting is that there is a possibility that there are many strange and wonderful creatures in the deep-sea that we are still yet to discover. Tony Hakim is always excited by the discovery of new animals, and hopes that we will see many more to come in the future.

Source

National Geographic, BBC

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