No Oxygen for Jellyfish-Like Creatures

on April 10, 2010

BBC News: “First Oxygen-Free Animals FoundFor humans and other animals, oxygen is critical to survival. But for tiny jellyfish-like creatures living on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea, oxygen is nothing special.

A team led by Marche Polytechnic University’s Roberto Danovaro discovered three different types of organisms, all from the taxonomic group Loricifera, on multiple expeditions to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea’s L’Atalante basin. The sea floor lies more than 2 miles (3.5 km) beneath sea level, and consequently has virtually no oxygen.

"We are talking about extreme conditions—full of salt, with no oxygen.”

The millimeter-size organisms have been classified as Spinoloricus, Rugiloricus, and Pliciloricus. They look similar to jellyfish, but inside a tiny shell, Danovaro said. Two of the species recovered contained eggs, implying the creatures can reproduce without oxygen; further, the eggs were incubated and hatched successfully in an oxygen-free environment.

“It is a real mystery how these creatures are able to live without oxygen because until now we thought only bacteria could do this. . . . We are talking about extreme conditions—full of salt, with no oxygen,” explained Danovaro. “We plan to go back and see if there are new surprises for us.”

Lisa Levin of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who was not involved with the research, noted, “Whether [the organisms] were overlooked or are exceedingly rare and thus not sampled is unclear. Perhaps scientists have been looking for them in all the wrong places.”

As we might have expected, Levin also suggested that the existence of the creatures points to the possibility of complex life existing on planets with atmospheres far different than earth’s. Creationists should instead view this discovery as another example of the range of the Creator’s designs intended to inhabit the wide and wonderful earth.

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