Entirely New Order of Animal Discovered

Genetic analysis reveals one of planet's biggest sea anemones isn't one

By Derek Andersen,  Newser Staff

Posted May 20, 2014 8:19 AM CDT

(Newser) – Researchers creating a catalog-like "tree of life" for sea anemones discovered an entirely new kind of animal among them. Based on genetic analysis, a creature that lives near deep sea thermal vents in the Pacific and had been considered a giant sea anemone really isn't actually a sea anemone and belongs to an order of its own, NBC News reports. "It's the equivalent to finding the first member of a group like primates or rodents," says researcher Estefanía Rodríguez of the American Museum of Natural History, which led the study. The resemblance between the redubbed Relicanthus daphneae (first named Boloceroides daphneae after its 2006 discovery) and anemones—boneless, immobile carnivorous animals—is a result of convergent evolution, Rodríguez continues.

"Both groups of animals lack the same characters," for instance, a skeleton, "but our research shows that while the anemones lost those characters over millions of years of evolution, R. daphneae never had them. Putting these animals in the same group would be like classifying worms and snakes together because neither have legs," she explains. R. daphneae, which claims tentacles more than 6 feet long, has now been moved from the order Actiniaria, which claims sea anemones, to the new order of Cnidaria. Rodríguez and her colleagues published their findings in Plos One earlier this month. (Click to read about a newly found plant with a very unique ability.)

A sea anemone.   (Shutter Stock)
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