Magazine article Science News

New Phylum Found Residing on Lobsters

Magazine article Science News

New Phylum Found Residing on Lobsters

Article excerpt

Even the most sophisticated lobster lovers probably give little thought to the creatures' lips. If they only knew what they were missing.

On the mouths of Norwegian lobsters lives a tiny invertebrate that fits into none of the animal kingdom's 35 or so broad taxonomic groups called phyla, claim Peter Funch and Reinhardt Mbjerg Kristensen of the University of Copenhagen. They have named the creature Symbion pandora and have assigned it to an entirely new phylum, which they call Cycliophora.

Their discovery of "what appears to be a new phylum of metazoans has to be the zoological highlight of the decade," asserts Simon Conway Morris of the University of Cambridge in England in a commentary accompanying the report in the Dec. 14 Nature.

"I think that there will be a lot of response, both positive and negative" to the report, acknowledges Funch. Scientists often argue over phylum designations.

For example, Funch and Kristensen state that the new creature most nearly resembles the phyla Ectoprocta and Entoprocta. Yet scientists fail to agree that Ectoprocta and Entoprocta are closely related, Morris notes.

Tom Fenchel of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Elsinore, Denmark, first observed the creature in the 1960s. Three decades later, using a state-of-the-art electron microscope that can peer deep into cell parts, Funch and Kristensen described the creature's unique body structure and behavior. They find that it reproduces both sexually and asexually and performs some odd stunts in the process. …

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