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Saturday 20 September 2014

'Alien mushroom creatures' found

Published 03/09/2014 | 19:32

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Finding a new species is always cause for excitement in the scientific community. And nowadays researchers find themselves having to go into ever more unreachable and hostile environments to find new life.

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So you can imagine the excitement when they dredged the ocean depths off Australia and discovered not only a new species, but something totally unrelated to anything else alive today.

Meet the Dendrogramma. These mushroom-shaped creatures consist mainly of an outer skin and inner stomach, separated by a dense layer of jelly-like material.

Scientists suspect they are related to ancient extinct life forms that lived 600 million years ago. Excitingly, we may be looking at a failed early attempt at multicellular life.

Two species of Dendrogramma have been identified: Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides.

They were discovered among a collection of organisms dredged up way back in 1986. The sample came from depths of 400 and 1,000 metres (1,312 and 3,280 feet) on the south-east Australian continental slope.

A new attempt may now be made to find other specimens of the mushroom-like organisms.

Press Association

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