Researchers Create A New Branch On Evolutionary Family Tree

Posted: Nov 17 2018, 4:09pm CST | by , Updated: Nov 17 2018, 4:19pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Researchers Create a New Branch on Evolutionary Family Tree
Credit: Dalhousie University

New evidence suggests that hemimastigotes represent a major new branch of evolutionary life.

Hemimastigotes have been assigned to an entirely new branch on the evolutionary tree of life. The dirt-dwelling microbes are so unusual that they do not fit into any known kingdom of organisms. As a result, the microbes have been placed in their own new branch, which is an incredibly rare event.

Hemimastigotes were first observed in 19th century, but they were never well-studied. The new research, which set out to investigate the identity of Hemimastigotes, revealed that these microbes are very different from other eukaryotes - life forms that have complex cells and a clearly defined nucleus.

Hemimastigotes are approximately two-hundredths of a millimeter long and move using over a dozen of hairs known as flagellas. They are so different from anything observed before that fungi and animals actually look more closely related.

“They represent a major branch … that we didn't know we were missing,” said study lead author and Dalhousie biology professor Alastair Simpson. “There's nothing we know that's closely related to them.”

Researchers report that discovery was made by a team member who was investigating the microbial species present in the dirt. When she examined a soil sample picked up during a hike, she found unusual microbes. They were actually two different species of rarely-observed hemimastigotes that had not yet been assigned a place on evolutionary family tree. Later, researchers were able to analyze hundreds of more samples, which provided a very clear understanding of the genetic makeup of the microbes.

When a new microbial species is identified and its genetic information is compared to other species, it has been placed in only existing kingdoms. But researchers had to create an entirely new branch on the evolutionary tree of life to place hemimastigotes in it.

“This discovery literally redraws our branch of the ‘Tree of Life’ at one of its deepest points,” said Dr Simpson.

“It was clear from our analyses that hemimastigotes didn’t belong to any known kingdom-level group, or even to a known ‘super-group’ of several kingdoms together, like the one that includes both animals and fungi. This one little collection of organisms is a whole new group at that level, all on its own. It’s a branch of the Tree of Life that has been separate for a very long time, perhaps more than a billion years, and we had no information on it whatsoever.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.

 

 

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