Unique Ancient Protozoan Discovered in Norwegian Lake Sludge

Posted on April 30, 2012

Protozoan Norwegian Lake Sludge

Researchers from the University of Oslo, Norway have discovered a very unique protozoan in the lake sludge at the bottom of little lake located 30 kilometers south of Oslo. The protozoan is not a fungus, alga, parasite, plant or animal. It requires its own branch on the tree of life. The organism has been declared a new genus, Collodictyon.

The tiny protozoan is just 30 to 50 micrometers long and can only be seen with a microscope. The researchers say the micro-organism evolved on earth about one billion years ago. The protozoan eats algae at the bottom of the lake. They are not sociable creatures.

Kamran Shalchian-Tabrizi, head of the Microbial Evolution Research Group (MERG) at the University of Oslo, says, "We have found an unknown branch of the tree of life that lives in this lake. It is unique! So far we know of no other group of organisms that descend from closer to the roots of the tree of life than this species. It can be used as a telescope into the primordial micro-cosmos."

Professor Dag Klaveness of MERG says, "We are surprised. Enormous quantities of environmental samples are taken all over the world. We have searched for the species in every existing DNA database, but have only found a partial match with a gene sequence in Tibet. So it is conceivable that only a few other species exist in this family branch of the tree of life, which has survived all the many hundreds of millions of years since the eukaryote species appeared on Earth for the first time."

Photo: UiO/MERG

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