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Simple sea anemones not so simple after all

The tube-dwelling anemone is an ancient sea creature that resembles a prehistoric flower. The animals live slow, long and predictable lifestyles and look fairly similar from species to species. It'd be easy to use the word "simple" when considering this relative of coral and jellyfish. But wait -- not so fast. New research on tube anemones is challenging everything that evolutionary biologists thought they knew about sea animal genetics. The mitochondrial DNA of the tube anemone, or Ceriantharia, is a real head scratcher, from its unexpected arrangement to its previously unimagined magnitude. National Science Foundation-funded researchers have published new findings showing that the DNA of the tube anemone does what few other species' mitochondrial genomes have been shown to do. It defies the classic doughnut shape it "should" be in and is arranged in several fragmented pieces, the number of which vary depending on the species. On top of that, the animal now holds the record for the largest mitochondrial genome reported to date. It contains almost 81,000 base pairs, or pieces of genetic information, according to the new study. Human mitochondrial DNA contains fewer than 17,000 base pairs.

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