Protist: Aquarium to enigmaESF Top 10 New Species of 2018SHARE:
About the Protist
Discovered in an aquarium in San Diego, California, USA, this new single-celled protist has challenged scientists to determine its nearest relatives. It does not fit neatly within any known group and appears to be a previously undiscovered, early lineage of Eukaryota with a uniquely rich mitochondrial genome. Eukaryotes are organisms with cells in which genetic material is organized in a membrane-bound nucleus. Prokaryotes, like bacteria and archaea, lack such an organized nucleus. Eukaryotes include single-celled protists as well as multi-celled organisms we commonly think of as animals, plants and fungi.
Ancoracysta twista is a predatory flagellate that uses its whip-like flagella to propel itself and unusual harpoon-like organelles, called ancoracysts, to immobilize other protists on which it feeds. The geographic origin of the species in the wild is not known. It was found in a tropical aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography on a brain coral. The unusually large number of genes in its mitochondrial genome opens a window into the early evolution of eukaryotic organisms.
Etymology The species name refers to the twirling motion the protist makes while swimming.
Type locality Origin in wild unknown. Discovered on a tropical brain coral in an aquarium in San Diego, California, USA.
Type Resin-embedded cells deposited in Beaty Biodiversity Museum, University of British Columbia
Description Janouskovec, J., Tikhonenkov, D.V., Burki, F., Howe, A.T., Rohwer, F.L., Mylnikov, P., and P.J. Keeling(2017) A new lineage of Eukaryotes illuminates early mitochondrial genome reduction. Current Biology 27: 1-8