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Science

Submission + - Old Branch on the Tree of Life Newly Discovered (livescience.com)

thomst writes: LiveScience writer Jennifer Welsh reports that a group of Norwegian researchers has discovered a single-celled organism that shares almost none of its genetic structure with any of the currently-known kingdoms (animals, plants, fungi, algae and protists) of life on Earth. Their study, first published in the January 6, 2012 in the online edition of Molecular Biology and Evolution (the abstract of revision 3 of "Collodictyon—An Ancient Lineage in the Tree of Eukaryotes" is available here, the full text is paywalled), compared the organism's genetic structure with data from hundreds of molecular biology databases around the world, and discovered only one partial match with an organism from Tibet. Welsh quotes study researcher Dag Klaveness, of the University of Oslo as saying, "We are surprised" at the uniqueness of the species, adding, "It is conceivable that only a few other species exist in this family branch of the tree of life, which has survived all the many hundreds of millions of years since the eukaryote species appeared on Earth for the first time." The researchers think the organism, called Collodictyon, could be the progenitor of both amoebas and protists (each members of a different eukaryotic kingdom), with which it shares some physical characteristics. "So far we know of no other group of organisms that descend from closer to the roots of the tree of life than this species," study researcher Kamran Shalchian-Tabrizi, also of the University of Oslo, in Norway, said in a statement.

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