Friday, November 03, 2006
From University of Florida News: Gainesville, Florida - Genetic analysis of an obscure, worm-like creature retrieved from the depths of the North Atlantic has led to the discovery of a new phylum, a rare event in an era when most organisms have already been grouped into major evolutionary categories.
The analysis also appears to shed light on the ancestor of chordates, the backboned animals that include human beings and two small invertebrate groups closely related to one another: lancelets and tunicates.
"It's a tremendous surprise that this mysterious creature from the ocean will help us understand our distant past," said Leonid Moroz (info), a professor of neuroscience and zoology at UF's Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience near St. Augustine and one of the researchers who participated in the discovery.
Moroz and 13 other scientists report their findings today in the journal Nature.
Scientists have long been puzzled by the half-inch-long creature known by its scientific name of Xenoturbella and first retrieved from the Baltic Sea more than 50 years ago.
Continued at "New phylum sheds light on ancestor of animals, humans"
Based on "Deuterostome phylogeny reveals monophyletic chordates and the new phylum Xenoturbellida" (Abstract)
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