Researchers from the University of Oslo have discovered a protozoan species that may belong to a new branch of the tree of life, says Popular Science's Rebecca Boyle. The researchers, who describe their findings in Molecular Biology and Evolution, say they found the microorganism — called Collodictyon — in lake sludge in Norway, and that it may be related to some of the planet's earliest life forms. "It is not a fungus, alga, parasite, plant, or animal, yet it has features associated with other kingdoms of life," Boyle says. "It could be a founding member of the newest kingdom on the tree of life." It is classified as a eukaryote, but has four flagella, unlike other organisms that have one or two flagella. "Also, the organism has the same internal structure as a parasite, but it uses amoeba-like protuberances to catch its food, which are blue-green algae," she adds. "So again, it combines features from two branches of the eukaryotes." In examining Collodictyon's genes, the researchers say that it probably evolved hundreds of millions of years ago, and has been living the same way since.
Rising from the Ooze
May 01, 2012