London, April 29 (ANI): Norwegian scientists have claimed that they have found one of the world's oldest living organisms and man's remotest relative - after spending two decades examining a microscopic algae-eater that lives in a lake in Norway.
They have invented a new category of organism for it called Collodictyon because it is not an animal, plant, parasite, fungus or alga, they said.
They said the elusive, single-cell creature evolved about a billion years ago, the Daily Mail reported.
"We have found an unknown branch of the tree of life that lives in this lake. It is unique!" said University of Oslo researcher Kamran Shalchian-Tabrizi.
"So far we know of no other group of organisms that descends from closer to the roots of the tree of life than this species," Dr Tabrizi stated.
Scientists believe the discovery may provide insight into what life looked like on earth hundreds of millions of years ago.
Collodictyon lives in the sludge of a small lake called As, 30 kilometres south of Oslo.
It has four tail-like propellers it uses to move around called flagella, and at 30 to 50 micrometres (millionths of a metre) long it can only be seen with a microscope.
Collodictyon possess cell nuclei enclosed by membranes, which makes them less like bacteria and more like eukaryotes, that is, plants, fungi, algae and animals, including humans.
Using the characteristics of collodictyon, Dr Tabrizi said scientists inferred that prehistoric eukaryotes were probably a single-cell organism with finger-like structures that it used to catch microscopic prey.
"They are not sociable creatures. They flourish best alone. Once they have eaten the food, cannibalism is the order of the day," added co-researcher Dag Klaveness, who bred millions of the tiny organisms for the study.
They have not been found anywhere but in Lake As.
"It is quite fascinating that we can still find these kinds of organisms after so many years. It has been outside our living rooms for millions of years and we haven't seen it," Tabrizi told a foreign news agency.
Collodictyon was first found in the lake about 20 years ago by University of Oslo scientists who recognised it was unusual but "didn't know how important it was", he added. (ANI)
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