Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Mirror spiders (Amazing Photos)

Thwaitesia sp (mirror spider), photo taken in singapore
Thwaitesia Sp. in Singapore
Credit: Nicky Bay
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Arachnida
Order: Araneae
Family: Theridiidae
Genus: Thwaitesia
Common Name(s): Mirror spider, sequined spider, twin-peaked Thwaitesia 

Spiders are one of the biggest and most diverse groups of arthropods. Some are small, some are big, some are harmless and some are deadly. Others are creepy and many are really beautiful.

Today's post is about a genus of spiders that is so beautiful, fascinating and unique that even arachnophobics will love it. The spiders I am talking about are commonly known as mirror spiders, and all belong to the Thwaitesia genus. Their most distinctive trait is the reflective silvery patches on their abdomen, hence the common name.

Thwaitesia spiders occur throughout the world and there are more than 20 described species at the moment. They are harmless to humans and relatively small, with adults being about 2 - 5 mm long, depending on the species and sex. Similarly to most spiders, female mirror spiders get larger than males. Mirror spiders are sometimes also reffered to as sequin, bling and jewel spiders.

There's not much info on the genus so I will leave you with some really amazing photos, I hope you enjoy them.

First, we have an awesome collection by Nicky Bayoriginally posted at his blog. All photos belong to the same specimen and were shot in Singapore:

What is very interesting with these photos is that as Bay mentions in his blog, the closer he gets to take the picture the more the silver plates expand (or maybe come close together?). In the last photo, Bay notes:

"This was the closest I got of the silver-plates at their largest. This Mirror Spider (Thwaitesia sp.) is indeed fascinating!"

Next we have some photos by Robert Whyte, originally posted at Arachne.org.au. They belong to the species T. argentiopunctata and T. nigronodosa. Again, a suberb collection:

And finally, two photos taken from wikimedia commons:

Credit: "Thwaitesia Spider on White Beech leaf" by Poyt448 Peter Woodard - Own work.
Licensed under CC-by-SA 3.0
Credit: "Bling Spider - Neon Spider - Thwaitsia sp. from the NSW Central Coast (7)" by Doug Beckers from Macmasters Beach, Australia - Bling Spider - Neon Spider, Theridiidae > Thwaitesia
Licensed under CC-by-SA 2.0

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Monday, 15 September 2014

Turritopsis Dohrnii - Is It Really Immortal?

The "Immortal" Jellyfish
Credit: Peter Schuchert/The Hydrozoa Directory
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Hydrozoa
Order: Anthoathecata
Family: Oceaniidae
Genus: Turritopsis
Species: Turritopsis dohrnii (formerly classified as T. nutricula.)
Common Name: The immortal jellyfish

Most of the animals featured on the site are chosen based on their unusual looks. However, this not the case with Turritopsis dohrnii, which seemingly has no notable morphological characteristics.

On the outside, it looks like yet another small, bell-shaped medusa. What's so unique about it is the fact that it exhibits a certain form of immortality, reminiscent of the life of Benjamin Button. T. dohrnii is able to cheat death at the very last minute, instead of dying it simply goes back in time and renews itself to become young again! Theoretically, some say this can go on indefinitely, effectively rendering the species biologically immortal. But how is this achieved and is the species truly immortal? Maybe "immortality" is just a poor choice of words?

The (theoretically) Never Ending Lifecycle of Turritopsis dohrnii
Like most other hydrozoans, a T. dohrnii individual begins its life as a tiny, free-swimming larvae called planula. A planula is a flattened, ciliated and bilaterally symmetric larvae that forms from fertilized eggs. In the case of the immortal jellyfish, the planula then settles down and gives rise to a colony of polyps that are attached to the seafloor.

Image showing a T. dohrnii polyp
T. dohrnii Polyp
Credit: Maria Pia Miglietta

These polyps then give rise to new T. dohrnii individuals by the method of budding. Budding is a form of asexual reproduction in which a new organism develops from the outgrowths of the polyp. All the jellyfish arising from the planula are genetically identical clones and eventually become sexually mature jellyfish that can reproduce sexually and lay new eggs.

Now, this is where things get interesting. If a T. dohrnii jellyfish is exposed to environmental stress, physical assault, sickness or simply gets too old, it has the capacity to revert back to the polyp stage, forming a new polyp. The polyp can then give rise to new medusas!

All stages of the medusa, from newly budded to fully matured individuals can revert back to the polyp form. During the transformation, the jellyfish first becomes a ball of tissue, the cells de-differentiate and then re-differentiate, and finally transforms into a hydroid, the previous stage of development.

Confused? Hopefully this will help:

The lifecycle of Turritopsis Dohrnii

Theoretically, this process can go on forever, and this is why some say T. Dohrni individuals effectively rendered biologically immortal. Research in laboratory conditions has revealed that 100% of specimens can revert to the polyp stage. However, out in the wild, life is not that easy and most individuals succumb to predation, disease and other life-threatening hazards, well-before they have the time to revert back to the polyp stage.

Today, Turritopsis dohrnii is the only known species in the animalia kingdom capable of reverting completely to a sexually immature, colonial stage, after having reached sexual maturity as a solitary stage.

A different opinion
The truth is that not all researchers agree on the theoretical immortality of T. dohrnii. For instance, Rebecca Helm has made a well-rounded post over DeepSeaNews, suggesting (based on other jellyfish species that reproduce in a similar manner) that over the course of time, mutations and other genetic junk may build up in T. dohrnii clonal populations. Eventually these population get “tired.” and produce clones that are more fragile, possibly becoming unable to revert to the polyp stage at some point. She concludes that:

 "While the “immortal” jellyfish Turritopsis dohrnii may be able to turn back its life cycle, it may not escape the inevitable slowing down that comes with age. In other words, while reversing your fate and escaping death for a short while may be a neat trick, it doesn’t guarantee immortality." Source

Is "immortality" a poor choice of words?
First, I want to clarify that I am no expert in marine life, Cnidaria, jellyfish etc. Although related to biology, my field of expertise lies miles way. Having said that, I think that "immortal" [as many describe the species] is a really unfit word to describe T. dohrnii.  From what I perceive, a human version of T. dohrnii would be something like this. Just before dying, a human/T. dohrnii hybrid [let's call him "X"] would first revert to a polyp-like zygote. Then, this initial zygote would divide into further zygotes like in the case of identical twins, and then these zygotes would grow into new human babies, each with the same genetic material of X. Eventually, these babies would grow into adults and look exactly like X, excluding of course any acquired characteristics like scars.

I can hardly consider this as biological immortality. Natural cloning would probably be a better word I think. Less catchy, more precise. But again, this is just the opinion of a non-expert. Don't take it for granted.

Now let's see what Ferdinando Boero has to say on the matter. Boero is one of the authors of a 1996 paper [2] that examined the life cycle of the Turritopsis dohrnii, which back then was identified as Turritopsis nutricula. The excerpt you are about to read was initially posted here as a comment:

"We did not speak about immortality, in the paper. We spoke about ontogeny reversal. Ontogeny is the series of steps that start with a zygote and arrive to the mature adult. Usually adults reproduce and then, sooner or later, they die. The hdyrozoans, with which Paul Raeburn is not very familiar with, start their life as a planula larva that settles on the bottom and gives rise to a hydroid colony. The colony buds off tiny jellyfish that, in zoological jargon, are also called medusae. The medusae are either male or female, they reproduce and then die. Reproduction gives rise to a planula that then becomes another hydroid colony, and the cycle starts again. T. dohrnii medusae, if subjected to sublethal stress, become a ball of tissue, their cells de-differentiate and then re-differentiate, and they transform into a hydroid. The previous stage of development. As I say in the article, it is as if a butterfly (the jellyfish) can re-organize its cells and go back to a caterpillar stage (the hydroid). So, ontogeny is reversed. This can be produced in the laboratory all the times you want." 

Brief Description
The medusa form Turritopsis dohrnii is bell-shaped and very small, with a maximum diameter of about 4.5 mm (0.18 in) and is about as tall as it is wide. Adults are about as wide as a human pinky nail.

The jelly in the walls of the bell is uniformly thin, except for some thickening at the apex. The relatively large stomach is bright red and has a cruciform shape in cross section. Young individuals are 1 mm in diameter and have only eight tentacles evenly spaced whereas adult specimens have 80-90 tentacles.

Turritopsis dohrnii amazing photo

Turritopsis Nutricula Vs Turritopsis Dohrnii
Several different species of the genus Turritopsis were previously believed to be the same species and thus were all classified as T. nutricula, including the "immortal jellyfish" which is now classified as T. dohrnii. T. nutricula is endemic to the Atlantic whereas Turritopsis Dohrnii occurs in the Mediterranean sea.

Other Interesting Facts
- The Turritopsis dohrnii's cell development method of transdifferentiation has inspired researchers to find a way to make stem cells using this process for renewing damaged or dead tissue in humans.

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References & Further Reading
- WoRMS (2012). "Turritopsis dorhnii (Weissmann, 1883)". In P. Schuchert. World Hydrozoa database. World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
- Stefano Piraino, Ferdinando Boero, Brigitte Aeschbach and Volker Schmid (1996). Reversing the Life Cycle: Medusae Transforming into Polyps and Cell Transdifferentiation in Turritopsis nutricula (Cnidaria, Hydrozoa). Biological Bulletin , Vol. 190, No. 3 (Jun., 1996), pp. 302-312
- S Kubota (2011). "Repeating rejuvenation in Turritopsis, an immortal hydrozoan (Cnidaria, Hydrozoa)". Biogeography 13: 101–103. ISSN 1345-0662
- Martínez DE (1998). Mortality patterns suggest lack of senescence in hydra. Experimental gerontology, 33 (3), 217-25 PMID: 9615920
-  Bavestrello, Giorgio; Christian Sommer and Michele Sarà (1992). "Bi-directional conversion in Turritopsis nutricula (Hydrozoa)". Scientia Marina 56 (2–3): 137–140.
- Ker Than (January 29, 2009). ""Immortal" Jellyfish Swarm World's Oceans". National Geographic News.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Russians save cat stuck in car springs (Video)

The cat that was trapped in the car spring, after rescue
Every cat-owner knows that our furry friends tend to get trapped in all kinds of obscure places, but very few have probably survived a ride like the one you are about to read.

About four months ago, Vitaliy Bouranin left with his Toyota Land Cruiser for a business trip somewhere in Russia. After about 50 miles, running at speeds of over 120 km/hour, he made a stop to get a refill. 

Until then, he had noticed nothing strange with his car. But this is when things started to get weird. As he was filling the car up, he heard a noise coming somewhere from the car. He checked under the car, nothing. He checked under the hood, again nothing.  

Then, he saw that a furry creature was inside one of the jeep's suspension springs. On closer inspection he saw that it was a cat that not only had managed to crawl up inside the spring but apparently had survived the whole trip unharmed!

Cat trapped unharmed in car spring

Bouranin first asked an attendant for help, but they couldn't get the cat out. The gas station staff then called the police and fire service, who decided that the only viable option was to dismantle the suspension and remove the spring.

The whole ordeal lasted more than three hours. Surprisingly, the cat remained perfectly calm and relaxed during the whole time, despite having lost at least one out of its nine lives! After being released, the cat was put into a box and taken back to the large Russian island in the North Pacific Ocean in southeast Russia, where the journey had begun.

You can see the last minutes of the rescue operation on the video down-below, which was shot by a passerby. Make sure to watch the last thirty seconds (7:30 and after) for a really heartwarming moment:

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Indian Purple Frog (Pignosed Frog)

Indian Purple Frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis)
Indian Purple Frog
Credit: Karthickbala at ta.wikipedia (CC-BY-SA-3.0)
via Wikimedia Commons
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Anura
Family: Sooglossidae
Genus: Nasikabatrachus
Species: Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis
Conservation Status: Endagered
Common name(s):  Indian purple frog, Pignosed frog, Indian purple frog

Meet the Indian puple frog, an endangered and odd-looking species of frog from the mountains of India’s Western Ghats.

The species was formally described only in 2003, although there was a lot of anecdotal evidence surrounding its existence. Other than its weird spherical looks, the pignosed frog also has a very unique and unusual burrowing lifestyle which is covered down below.

Distribution & Habitat
Initially believed to be restricted to the south of the Palghat Gap in the Western Ghats, additional research has revealed that the species distribution extends further north of the gap. Today, the pig-nosed frog is known to be distributed in the Western Ghats, ranging from the Camel's Hump Hill Range in the north, all the way to the northernmost portions of the Agasthyamalai Hill Range in the south.

MapP showing the distribution of the purple frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis)
Purple frog distribution map
(click to enlarge)

Adults have a plump, round body with a pointed, pig-like snout. The head is conical and very small compared to the rest of the body. The eyes are small and rounded, with a horizontal pupil. The skin is smooth and has a dark purple coloration that fades into grey along the stomach.

Adults are about 7 cm (~2.7 in.) long, with males being about one third the size of females.

The fore and hindlimbs are short but strong, allowing it to dig as far as 3.7 m (12 ft) below ground. The limbs end in partially webbed feet with rounded toes. Εach hind foot possesses a large, white wart-like growth, probably used for digging purposes.

The purple frog has a skeletal structure that is characteristic of most burrowing frogs, with a strongly ossified skull and well-calcified bones.

Dorsolateral and frontal view of a male purple frog
Dorsolateral (left) and frontal (right) views of a calling male that was removed from under
the soil at the entrance of the tunnel from which it had been calling. The male was induced
to call above ground after brief exposure to a female.
Credit: Ashish Thomas [2]

Behavior & Reproduction
Pignosed frogs spend most of the year underground, coming out in the surface only for about two weeks each year, to reproduce. This is why the species had gone unnoticed for so long by biologists, until 2003 when it was officially described.

Mating occurs during the pre-monsoon rains, primarily in May. Males use strange calls to attract females, from burrows beside headwater streams. Once approached by females, they mount them in the amplexus position. While in amplexus in the pectoral position, the male tightly holds the vertebral column of the female. The pair then enters a crevice in a rock pool amid a flowing stream and the female lays the eggs in a clutch comprised of more than 3000 eggs. The hatchlings are tadpoles and metamorphose after about 100 days.

Male frog calling from above ground

Contrary to most other burrowing frogs that emerge and feed above the ground, the purple frog forages exclusively underground, feeding primarily on termites using the tongue and a special buccal groove. It occasionally also feeds on ants and small worms. It is presumed to use its smell to forage due to the lack of light and its poor vision.

N. sahyadrensis has a narrow mouth with a small gape that prevents it from catching and consuming larger prey items.

Conservation Status
This strange animal is listed by the IUCN as an endangered species, because its known distribution area covers less than 5,000 km2, with all individuals occurring in fewer than five locations. The IUCN also notes the continuing decline in the extent and quality of its habitat in the Cardamom Hills.

Their main threat is forest loss due to expanding cultivation (of coffee, cardamom, ginger and other crops). The purple frog has not been reported in any protected areas, making the protection of its known habitat an urgent priority.

Other Interesting Facts about the purple frog
- N. sahyadrensis tadpoles were first described in 1918, without specimens of adults. The species was tentatively assigned to the family Cystignathidae.
- The pignosed frog used to be considered the only extant member of an ancient amphibian family called Nasikabatrachidae. However, in 2006 the family was incorporated into the Sooglossidae
- Only 135 specimens have so far been observed or collected. Only three of them were females.

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  • Turtle Frog: A bizarre frog with a turtle-shaped body.

References & Further Reading
-  Biju SD, & Bossuyt F (2003). New frog family from India reveals an ancient biogeographical link with the Seychelles. Nature, 425 (6959), 711-4 PMID: 14562102
- Thomas A, Suyesh R, Biju SD, & Bee MA (2014). Vocal behavior of the elusive purple frog of India (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis), a fossorial species endemic to the Western Ghats. PloS one, 9 (2) PMID: 24516517
- C. Radhakrishnan, K. C. Gopi and Muhamed Jafer Palot (2007) Extension of range of distribution of Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis Biju & Bossuyt (Amphibia: Anura: Nasikabatrachidae) along Western Ghats, with some insights into its bionomics. Current Science, 92(2):213-216
- Das, K. S. Anoop 2006 Record of Nasikabatrachus from the Northern Western Ghats. Zoos' Print Journal 21(9):2410
- Zachariah, A; RK Abraham; S. Das; KC Jayan & R Altig (2012). "A detailed account of the reproductive strategy and developmental stages of Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis (Anura: Nasikabatrachidae), the only extant member of an archaic frog lineage". Zootaxa 3510: 53–64
- Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis. In: IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. . 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Weird Animal Names: Hitler's Beetle

Hitler's Beetle (Anophthalmus hitleri)
Anophthalmus hitleri
Credit: Photo by Michael Munich,
Own work.  (CC BY-SA 3.0 US) 
This is Anophthalmus hitleri, a small blind beetle named after Adolf Hitler! The species occurs exclusively in five humid caves in Slovenia.

The beetle was described by German engineer and beetle collector Oscar Scheibel (1881 - 1953), who was sold a specimen that was found in 1933, in a cave of the former Yugoslavia. [4]

Scheibel named the new species after Adolf Hitler, who had become Chancellor of Germany during the same year. The genus name (Anophthalmus) means "without eyes", so the full name translates to "the eyeless one of Hitler". Scheibel's dedication did not go unnoticed by the Führer, who personally send him a letter to show his gratitude!

Other than its unusual name, the beetle exhibits no notable characteristics, such as extravagant colors or antennae. However, it is a highly sought Nazi memorabilia, with collectors paying really good money to obtain one. In 2002, a well preserved specimen had an estimated price of almost 2000 $ (£1200) [2]. Experts have warned multiple times that the high demand from collectors encourages poaching that might eventually lead to the species extinction. Apparrently, not even museums are safe from collectors and memorabilia dealers, as the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology had almost all of its A. hitleri specimens stolen in the past. [3]

There have been several proposals after the end of the World War II to rename the beetle, however they have all been rejected by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature*. To retain consistency in scientific sources, Latin designations of species cannot be changed once a name has been registered, unless the name had violated the established rules back when it was initially registered. Apparently, this was not the case with Anophthalmus hitleri.

Brief Description
A.hitleri adults are 5 - 5.5 mm long, eyeless and have been found in five caves of Slovenia. The body is reddish brown and covered by short, barely visible hairs. Males are glossy whereas females are slightly duller. Adults and larvae are presumed to be predators on smaller cave inhabitants, as the species is a member of the (predatory) Trechinae subfamily.

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Coleoptera
Family: Carabidae
Subfamily: Trechinae
Genus: Anophthalmus
Species: Anophthalmus hitleri
Conservation Status: Not officially assessed, possibly threatened due to collection

* Organization dedicated to "achieving stability and sense in the scientific naming of animals".

References & Further Reading
- Oscar Scheibel: Ein neuer Anophthalmus aus Jugoslawien. Entomologische Blätter (Berlin), 33, 6, S. 438–440, 1937

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Strange Animals in London Zoo

The easiest and most inexpensive way to see some strange animals in person is to simply visit a zoo. About 2 months ago, I had the privilege to visit the London Zoo, that place is really great and has all kinds of weird creatures, including insects, mammals, birds, fish etc. There are even some fossils you can check out.

I spent 8 hours there and still hadn't saw all the exhibited animals by the time it close. Luckily, the ones I missed were what you expect from any zoo, like lions, tigers, elephants etc.  I also had a camera with me and recorded most of the animals I saw. I finished uploading all the videos a few days ago and now the time has come to share them with you.

So, let's first begin with some weird mammals:

Friday, 5 September 2014

Strange Deep Sea Mushroom-Shaped Animals Discovered

Several views of Dendrogramma enigmatica
Photos of the newly discovered, mushroom-shaped
Dendrogramma enigmatica
In a paper that appeared this week on PlosOne, researchers from the University of Copenhagen announced the discovery of two new strange, deep sea and mushroom-shaped animals. The two species were identified from a collection of specimens that were collected back in 1986.

The authors assigned the newly described Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides under the animal kingdom, however they couldn't classify them into an existing phylum. A new family, Dendrogrammatidae, was established for the species.

Discovery, History & Naming
In a 1986 scientific expedition, the authors collected numerous specimens of several organisms at 400 and 1000 m (~1,300 ft - 3,300 ft) deep, off the south-east coast of Australia, on the continental slope near Tasmania.

The scientists were immediately shocked by the unusual Dendrogramma specimens (18 in total) they had collected and preserved them in formaldehyde and later ethanol for further examination. They returned to the same site two years later, but failed to recover further specimens.

But why did it take them almost thirty years to publish the discovery? Jean Just, from the University of Copenhagen, who carried out the trawling in 1986 explains:

"Once you think you have something really extraordinary, it takes a long time to study, read, consult left, right and centre, and convince yourself that you have really stumbled across something special." [2]

Dendrogramma is a reference to dendrograms, a type of tree diagram used in biology to illustrate evolutionary relationships between organisms. As for the species specific names, they are a reference to their mysterious character (enigmatica) and disc shape (Greek: disco+ides), respectively.

Dendrogramma discoides from several angles
Dendrogramma discoides
A. adoral view B. enlarged part of disc
C. aboral view D.oblique adoral view.
(click image to enlarge)

Both species are multicellular and mostly non-symmetrical, with a dense layer of gelatinous material between the outer skin cell and inner stomach cell layers. They are relatively small, less than an inch long (2.5 cm) when alive and roughly mushroom-shaped.

The body consists of a flattened disc and a stalk with a mouth on the end, surrounded by lobes. The mouth leads to a digestive canal that forks repeatedly when it reaches the disc. The mouth is small and simple and how they feed is unclear. However, it has been suggested that the mucus secreted by the lobes around the mouth may be used for capturing microorganisms in the water.

"With their small, simple mouth opening it would seem likely that they feed on micro-organisms, perhaps trapped by mucus from the specialized lobes surrounding the mouth opening.", extract from the study.

These strange animals appear to be free-floating as they appear to lack a means of propulsion and are probably incapable of swimming. Furthermore, they do not show evidence of having been attached to something else, whether a surface or each other.

Dendrogramma enigmatica body anatomy
Dendrogramma enigmatica
A. holotype, ‘lateral’ view  B. same, aboral view.
C. cross-section through approx. half of stalk
(click image to enlarge)

Biological classification
The two animals have a body that bears certain similarities with species from the phyla Cnidaria and Ctenophora, however the authors say that they lack key anatomical features that are unique to either of these groups. Some of these features include cnidocytes, tentacles, marginal pore openings for the radiating canals, ring canal, sense organs and other structures mentioned in the paper.

"Dendrogramma shares a number of similarities in general body organisation with the two phyla, Ctenophora and Cnidaria, but cannot be placed inside any of these as they are rrecognizedcurrently.", extract from the study.

The researchers assigned the two species in their own genus, but refrained from erecting a new phylum, as new material is needed to resolve many pertinent outstanding questions. For now, Dendrogramma is referred to incertae sedis [something like unknown phylum]. For this reason, the authors recommend "that attempts be made to secure new material for further study".

"We published this paper in part as a cry for help. There might be somebody out there who can help place it." said co-author Jorgen Olesen, from the University of Copenhagen. [4]

Unfortunately, genetic identification which could help in the classification is impossible, as all specimens were preserved with formaldehyde and alcohol, a method that destroys genetic material.

Scientific Importance
The discovery of a new species is always welcome, but not always of great scientific importance. However, this isn't probably the case with the Dendrogramma species, especially if they lead to the establishment of a new phylum. Some have even said that textbooks in zoology may need to be rewritten!

Leonid Moroz, a neurobiologist at the University of Florida's Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience in St. Augustine, said that if the new species proves to be descendants of early animals [scroll down for more info], the discovery could "completely reshape the tree of life, and even our understanding of how animals evolved, how neurosystems evolved, how different tissues evolved. It can rewrite whole textbooks in zoology." [3]

Let's see what some other experts had to say:
"It would be incredibly exciting if the authors have found a previously unknown group of animals that diverged from other animals so early." said Casey Dunn, an evolutionary biologist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. [2]
"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." said Tetyana Nosenko, an evolutionary biologist at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany. [2]

Ediacaran Descendants
The two Dendrogramma species bear a striking resemblance to certain Ediacaran forms, like Albumares, Anfesta, and Rugoconites. These life-forms have long gone extinct, more than 500 million years ago at the end of the Ediacaran period and are only known from the fossil record.

Although unlikely, there is a chance that Dendrogramma are Ediacaran descendants, making them the first animals to survive to modern times in their original form.

"If this is true, then we have discovered animals which we'd expect to be extinct around 500 million years ago.", said study co-author Reinhardt Kristensen, an invertebrate zoologist at the University of Copenhagen, 

- The research was supported by an Australian Marine Science and Technology/Australian Research Council grant. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
- All photos in this article are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license. Please include the first reference to Plos One if you wish to redistribute, remix etc. Click here for more info.

Just J, Kristensen RM, & Olesen J (2014). Dendrogramma, New Genus, with Two New Non-Bilaterian Species from the Marine Bathyal of Southeastern Australia (Animalia, Metazoa incertae sedis) - with Similarities to Some Medusoids from the Precambrian Ediacara. PloS one, 9 (9) PMID: 25184248
- Rincon, Paul. "Deep sea 'mushroom' may be new branch of life"
- Skinner, Nicole. "Sea creatures add branch to tree of life"
- Rincon, Paul. "Deep sea 'mushroom' may be new branch of life"