Tiny 'living fossil' found in New Zealand waters

May 29, 2014
This undated image shows a scanning electron microscope image of a resin cast of the polyp chambers and connections of Protulophila in a worm tube

A microscopic marine creature believed to have been extinct for four million years has been found alive and well in New Zealand waters, researchers said on Thursday.

The animal, a tentacled polyp called protulophila, forms colonies inside sea worms and first appeared in the about 170 million years ago in Europe and the Middle East, government marine agency NIWA said.

The last trace of it was in rocks that were four million years old, until scientists found the organism in samples from New Zealand, half a world away from its regular habitat, which were formed just one million years ago.

That sent researchers scrambling to check more recent samples and sure enough the polyp turned up in collected by NIWA in 2008 near Picton, on New Zealand's South Island.

NIWA marine biologist Dennis Gordon said scientific "detective work" involving researchers from NIWA, Britain's Natural History Museum and the University of Oslo was responsible for the discovery.

"Finding living protulophila is a rare example of how knowledge of fossils has led to the discovery of living biodiversity. It's very exciting," he said.

He added that the next stage of research into the creature, which is related to corals and , was to find fresh samples for gene sequencing.

Explore further: First study to show that birds and not just mammals copy yawns

Related Stories

Scientists snare 'superprawn' off New Zealand

Feb 03, 2012

Scientists have captured a "supergiant" crustacean in waters seven kilometres (4.5 miles) deep off New Zealand, measuring 10 times the normal size of related species.

New Zealand court rejects global warming challenge

Sep 07, 2012

New Zealand's High Court on Friday dismissed a challenge launched by climate change sceptics against a government research agency's finding that the temperature had risen in the past century.

Recommended for you

Do you have the time? Flies sure do

52 minutes ago

Flies might be smarter than you think. According to research reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 28, fruit flies know what time of day it is. What's more, the insects can learn to con ...

Barking characterizes dogs as voice characterizes people

3 hours ago

An international group of researchers has conducted a study on canine behavior showing that gender, age, context and individual recognition can be identified with a high percentage of success through statistical ...

Bird beaks feeling the heat of climate change, say scientists

5 hours ago

While the human population grapples with ways to counter the effects of climate change, Deakin University research has discovered that birds might have been working on their own solution for the past 145 years – grow bigger ...

How longhorned beetles find Mr. Right

17 hours ago

A longhorned beetle's sexy scent might make a female perk up her antennae. But when the males of several species all smell the same, a female cannot choose by cologne alone.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.