(OCEANS/SPECIES DISCOVERY) After four years of research by the American Natural History Museum, what was thought by researchers to be the world’s largest sea anemone has now been classified as the first species in a new order of animal, Cnidaria.

The new order is “a classification equal to Carnivora in mammals or Crocodilia in reptiles,” according to Mother Nature Network.

When conducting an evolutionary tree of all 112 species of sea anemone, scientists realized that one species, Boloceroides Daphneae, did not belong in the classification.  

Boloceroides Daphneae was discovered in 2006 and classified as a sea anemone due to its deep sea, stationary, carnivorous lifestyle and its lack of skeleton. With a cylindrical pink body, the marine creature boasts six-feet-long tentacles and has the longest spirocysts, which are used to entangle and entrap prey, of any deep-sea species.

A new deep sea species is classified in its own order. Photo credit: nachrichten.freenet.de
A new deep sea species is classified in its own order. Photo credit: nachrichten.freenet.de

The ANHM’S “tree of life” mapping unintentionally yielded DNA evidence that the Boloceroides Daphneae was in fact unrelated to sea anemones and was consequently renamed Relicanthus Daphneae.

The similar qualities of the two unrelated species were found to be a result of convergent evolution, which occurs when two species separately develop similar traits due to parallel environments. However, whereas sea anemones lost their skeletons over time, the research revealed that Relicanthus Daphneae never had them, according to Estefanía Rodríguez, an assistant curator in the American Museum of Natural History.

“The discovery of this new order of Cnidaria—a phylum that includes jellyfish, corals, sea anemones and their relatives — is the equivalent to finding the first member of a group like primates or rodents,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

This new order, as Rodriguez states, is continual evidence that nature still has surprises and wonders to teach us.

— Dori Edwards, exclusive to Global Animal

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