The tree of life may have just grown a bit bigger.
British scientists have apparently discovered an entirely new branch of life. Related to fungi, the new discovery, named cryptomycota, are so widespread that they are considered a branch of life separate from bacteria, plants, and animals. The findings on the new branch of life, also known as a clade, are being published in the journal Nature. Meredith Jones, the lead author of the study, and her colleagues estimate that the biodiversity found in the cryptomycota clade could be similar to that of the fungus kingdom.
Biologists have estimated that they have only cataloged 10 percent of all fungal species, but they believed they were at least aware of all the major groups of fungus. The discovery of an entirely new branch of life separate from fungus has scientists trying to figure out precisely the life cycle of cryptomcyota.
The name “cryptomycota” is loosely translated as “hidden from the kingdom fungi.” The organisms are so microscopic that they had previously gone undetected by scientists. Since the discovery, cryptomycota has been detected in a variety of environments, including lake water, pond water, and marine water sediments. According to the scientists who discovered the new clade, cryptomycota is closely related to Rozella, a genus in the chytrid division of the fungus kingdom. Rozella is made up of simple organisms.
Thus far, it appears that cryptomycota cells lack cell walls, although scientists have located “non-flagellate cells that are attached to other types of cells.” The lack of a cell wall is one of the biggest indicators that cryptomycota is distinct from fungus. Researchers are still trying to figure out how it is possible for cryptomycota to thrive in such diverse environments without cell walls.
Because the discovery of cryptomycota is so new, there is still a lot to learn about it. The available information on cryptomycota is limited as scientists continue to study it. Scientists have a long way to go in order to further research the new discovery and prove that it is indeed a separate branch of life.
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