Our planet is still full of living beings unknown to science, and most of them live in the depths of the ocean. More recently, biologists from the Smithsonian Institution have managed to find many microscopic larvae, from which completely new creatures for humans can later grow. Scientists believe that they are dealing with larvae of underwater worms called phoronids. To verify this, they had to resort to the study of DNA and their comparison with adult molecules.
Forids are living creatures that live at a depth of about 400 meters and reach lengths of up to 20 centimeters. Adult individuals are fixed on stones and corals, create a chitinous tube for self-defense, and release tiny tentacles to trap nutrients from the water. Their larvae were first found in 1846, and adults were found exactly 10 years later. There were so many differences between young and adult individuals that the larvae were classified as completely different, Actinotrocha.
Scientists suggest that there are a huge variety of phoronid species. They immediately realized that among the found larvae there are those who can grow into the previously unexplored species of these living beings. To find out whether this is true or not, the researchers compared the DNA of the larvae and already known adult individuals.
So, the researchers had 23 phoronid larvae from the Gulf of Panama, and 29 from the coast of the Caribbean Sea. Adult phoronid DNA was taken from the open GenBank database. Comparing the sequence of molecules, scientists have found that one of the larvae may indeed become a new species for science.
According to researcher Michael Boyle, most adult phoronid individuals lead an extremely secretive way of life, and it is almost impossible to detect them. Sometimes only larval forms remind of their existence.