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SCIENCE: Is This “Hairy Ogre” Microbe A Whole New Branch on the Tree of Life?

Hairy Ogre Microbe

Who needs aliens when there are bizarre life forms still to be discovered in Canada?

Scientists recently detected two previously unknown species of microbes in a Canadian dirt sample, and the specimens were so unusual that the researchers had to reorganize the tree of life to make room for them.

The microbes, also known as protists, belong to a group with the tongue-twisting name hemimastigotes, and the first-ever genetic analysis of these peculiar microorganisms revealed that they were even stranger than anyone suspected.

Hemimastigotes, first observed in the 1800s, were previously classified as a phylum within a much larger group known as a super-kingdom, though it was unclear where exactly they belonged.

But new DNA evidence showed that they deviated dramatically from all other forms of life in that super-kingdom. In fact, hemimastigotes may represent an entirely new super-kingdom unto themselves, demanding a brand-new branch on the tree of life, scientists reported in a new study.

By Mindy Weisberger – Full Story at Live Science

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