Spawn of the triffid? Tiny organisms give us glimpse into complex evolutionary tale

phys.org | 4/3/2019 | Staff
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Two newly discovered organisms point to the existence of an ancient organism that resembled a tiny version of the lumbering, human-eating science fiction plants known as 'triffids,' according to research in Nature.

The microscopic protists Rhodelphis limneticus and Rhodelphis marinus are genetically 'sisters' to red algae, but couldn't be more different. Red algae are fleshy, large organisms with a simple genome that perform photosynthesis, just like plants. Rhodelphis are single-cell predators with a large, complex genome.

Protists - Chloroplast - Ties - Plants - Past

The two protists have a chloroplast, though it is not photosynthetic anymore, pointing to their close ties with plants in the distant past. They also have flagella, a whip-like structure which allows them to move and hunt for their dinner.

"Rhodelphis shows that there was a period of time when the ancestors of plants and algae probably absorbed sunlight to generate energy, while also swimming around eating things," says University of British Columbia (UBC) biologist Patrick Keeling, the senior researcher leading the study.

Life - Family - Algae - Rhodelphis - Sisters

If we think of life as a big family, with algae and Rhodelphis as sisters, their ancient mother was more like...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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