A Startling Microbe Discovery Just Revealed a Whole New Branch of Our Tree of Life

A Startling Microbe Discovery Just Revealed a Whole New Branch of Our Tree of Life, by David Nield.

Microscopic organisms found in dirt collected from a hike through Nova Scotia mean we’re going to have to add another branch to the tree of life.

The strange organisms simply don’t fit into the plant kingdom, the animal kingdom, or any other kingdom we’ve classified up until now.

The tiny critters in question represent two species of the group of microbes called hemimastigotes, and based on a detailed genetic analysis, one of them has never been spotted before.

According to the team of researchers from Dalhousie University in Canada, the two species are eukaryotes (with complex cells, like humans), and protists (outside the animal, plant, and fungi kingdoms). But they don’t fit the patterns of the existing 10 kingdoms that make up the Eukaryota domain.

Credit: Yana Eglit

“This discovery literally redraws our branch of the tree of life at one of its deepest points,” says one of the researchers, Alastair Simpson. “It opens a new door to understanding the evolution of complex cells — and their ancient origins — back well before animals and plants emerged on Earth.” …

They’re more different from other organisms as animals and fungi are from each other. To find a common ancestor between hemimastigotes and any other living creature you would have to go back about a billion years