Sea 'mushroom' could be early branch in tree of life

2014-10-27 10:33
Dendrogrammatidae enigmatica. (YouTube)

Dendrogrammatidae enigmatica. (YouTube)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Copenhagen - Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categories.

Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions.

Found off the Tasmanian coast in 1986, they've been nicknamed 'deep sea mushrooms'.

In fact they're two species of miniature animal defying all scientific attempts at classification.
Jean Just, retired associate professor at Natural History Museum of Denmark, said "you can see that it looks like a little mushroom, that's why it's been called the 'deep sea mushroom'. It's got nothing to do with mushrooms, of course. It's just that it has this little hat and it has this stalk."

Professor Just led the Tasmanian expedition.

"They're classified as two new species, which are put in a new genus which is called Dendogramma and in a new family called Dendrogrammatidae. That's all we can do at the moment. You will see in the papers that it is followed by a little Latin, two words that's called 'incertae sedis' and that basically means we haven't got any idea where they belong."

Olesen and colleague Reinhardt Møbjerg Kristensen think the Dendrogrammatidae could be an early branch on the tree of life. But proving it is difficult.

Jorgen Olesen, associate professor at Natural History Museum of Denmark, said that "maybe we can get DNA out of the specimens that we do have. We hope for that but the advice we have got until now is that it will be very very difficult. But there might still be fragments of DNA still available in our materials."

Another trip to the south-east Australian continental slope would be expensive. So the trio have launched an appeal to the world's major museums to look through their own deep sea collections.

"All of them have lots and lots of deep sea material that has not been identified and I'd be surprised if there wasn't some of these animals inside one or two of these collections," said Professor Just.

The trio believe the Dendrogrammatidae could hold important clues about evolution, and hope scientists from around the world can help them uncover the truth behind these tiny creatures.

For more information check the video below.

Read more on:    denmark  |  australia  |  research  |  marine life

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


How to open a beer bottle without an opener

Do the right thing and never be thirsty again…


You won't want to miss...

WATCH: Man films himself going down water slide upside down as things go very wrong…
WATCH: Conor McGregor: Notorious the trailer
Best date night restaurants in South Africa
WATCH: Ryan Reynolds offers fans a free tattoo in new Deadpool 2 teaser
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.