Genomes of limpet, leech, and worm put spotlight on lophotrochozoans.
by JADE BOYD
A new report in the journal Nature unveils three of the first genomes from a vast, understudied swath of the animal kingdom that includes as many as one-quarter of Earth’s marine species. By publishing the genomes of a leech, an ocean-dwelling worm and a kind of sea snail creature called a limpet, scientists from Rice University, the University of California-Berkeley and the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute (JGI) have more than doubled the number of genomes from a diverse group of animals called lophotrochozoans (pronounced: LOH-foh-troh-coh-zoh-uhns).
Lophotrochozoans are a diverse group of animals that includes mollusks – such as snails, clams and octopuses — and annelids — such as leeches and earthworms. Like humans and all other animals, lophotrochozoans can trace their evolutionary history to the earliest multicellular creatures. But the lophotrochozoan branch of the evolutionary tree diverged more than 500 million years ago from the branch that produced humans.
Almost all published genomes are from the animal kingdom’s most-studied clades: deuterostomes, which includes humans and other vertebrates, and ecdysozoans, which includes insects. Only two lophotrochozoan genomes have been previously mapped, and both are for parasitic worms, which aren’t representative of most species in the clade…
Newly Discovered Volcanic Sea Vents Crawling with Creatures
by Ker Than
Smoke-like columns of mineral-rich water rise from a hydrothermal vent—one of ten active volcanic vents recently discovered in the Gulf of California, the long, narrow body of water between Baja California and mainland Mexico.
The vents are the first to be found in the region despite many years of searching. Scientists had suspected active vents existed in the gulf, due to the region’s volcanic activity, but until now they’d been hard to track down.
The new “black smokers” were found using sonar-equipped robotic submarines, which were deployed during the last leg of a three-month expedition by California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). The team has been using sonar vehicles to successfully locate new vents in the northeastern Pacific since 2006.
On the latest excursion, sonar maps of the seafloor revealed the tell-tale structures of vent chimneys, showing the team just where to send its remotely operated vehicles (ROVs)…