Mystery mushroomlike sea creatures get names

Specimens from off Australian coast resemble jellies but may represent new phylum

NEW WHATSIT SPECIES  Enigmatic mushroomlike specimens picked out of a sample of mixed material dragged from the sea now have a scientific name, but researchers aren’t sure what kind of animal they are.

J. Just et al./PLOS ONE 2014

Little mushroom-shaped things collected in 1986 now have scientific names but no clear place on the tree of life.

Designated Dendrogramma enigmatica and D. discoides, they have what looks like a mouth at the base of a stubby stalk, which widens into a disc smaller than a dime. Researchers hauled them up from Australia’s continental slope but preserved them in fluids that shrank tissues and damaged DNA, making genetic analysis impossible. The mystery organisms resemble, but lack important features of, both comb jellies and the phylum that includes stinging jellies.

Dendrogramma might even deserve their own new phylum, but scientists need more samples, say Jean Just of the University of Copenhagen and colleagues September 3 in PLOS ONE

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