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'Alien mushroom creatures' found

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.

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.

PA Media