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Comb jelly immune system can spot old enemies

Animal at base of family tree could help researchers understand evolution of immunity

OLD FASHIONED  The invasive comb jelly Mnemiopsis leidyi can do some pretty sophisticated things with its immune system for an organism of such ancient lineage.

Comb jellies may look like little more than filmy ghosts twinkling in the sea. Yet their immune systems can tell whether the jellies have encountered certain bacteria before.

Biologists once thought only vertebrates could recognize a familiar foe and tailor an immune response to it, says Sören Bolte of the University of Kiel in Germany. But insects and crustaceans turn out to have their own ways of accomplishing the same memorylike task.

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