Saturday, 6 September 2014

Precambrian Sea Creature’s Weird Relative Is Still Alive?

Dendrogramma. Image courtesy of Jean Just, Reinhardt Møbjerg Kristensen and Jørgen Olesen.

Joel Kontinen

There seems to be little, if anything, new under the sun. A recent study published in PLOS ONE on bizarre deep-sea creatures called Dendrogramma found 400–1,000 metres below the surface in the Tasman Sea illustrates this timeless truth.

Jean Just, a zoologist at the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, and colleagues reported on specimens already discovered in 1986 but they also found some hitherto unnoticed associations.

The Dendrogramma were alive when they were caught but they were dead by the time they were lifted out of the water.

According to Nature news:

“The researchers also found similarities — such as the same branching pattern and lobe-like structures around the mouth opening — between Dendrogramma and a small group of 'medusoids', or jellyfish-like creatures, that lived 600 million years ago during the Ediacaran period.”

Whether creatures resist change or not, “600 million years” is a very long stretch of time. If evolution and millions of years were true, these bizarre creatures would have had plenty of time to change. Alas, they did not:

Tetyana Nosenko, an evolutionary biologist at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany, says that ‘this discovery implies an exciting possibility that the deep-sea of Australia has preserved living descendants of the Ediacara organisms, which were thought to be extinct over 500 million years ago.’ ”

The very existence of living fossils, some of which are tiny and soft-bodied, is an enormous embarrassment for Darwinian evolution, which, after all, should be characterised by change over time.


Skinner, Nicole. 2014. Sea creatures add branch to tree of life. Nature news (3 September).