Sea Creature’s Classification Stumps Scientists

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A mushroom-shaped sea creature was discovered off the coast of Australia, but now that they have it researchers aren’t quite sure what to do with it.

Several mushroom-shaped sea creatures that were discovered off the coast of Australia in 1986 and subsequently preserved are confusing researchers who aren’t quite sure how to classify them.

They don’t appear to have so much as a twig on the tree of life.

To classify animals of the world, scientists use a system of divisions each known as a phylum, and subdivisions called classes.

Generally, new discoveries fit into one of the established categories, but not in this case.

The specimens are tiny, measuring only a few millimeters, and show some similarities to both the comb jelly clan and the grouping that includes sea anemones and corals.

Unfortunately, they don’t have enough in common with either to comfortably fit into their Phylae.

For one, they lack tentacles and organs devoted to senses, ruling them out as candidates for inclusion with the corals and anemones.

They’re also without the movement-enabling hairs called cilia, making them incompatible with comb jellies and the like.

Besides that type of confusion, the sea dweller itself is quite simple.

It has a single opening for food and waste and a digestive network. All of that is encased in a gelatinous body.

Unfortunately the samples were not preserved in such a way that allows for genetic analysis, so the researchers have published their paper partly as ‘a call for help’.