New Species Looks Like a Mushroom

New Species Looks Like a Mushroom

Mysterious animals discovered offshore Australia resemble floppy chanterelle mushrooms but feel like dollops of gelatin, according to a new study.

The ocean-dwelling creatures are so unusual that an entire new taxonomic family was created to classify them, scientists report today (Sept. 3) in the journal PLOS ONE. Yet nothing is known about their lifestyle, their feeding habits, how they reproduce or if they float or attach to the seafloor.

"We don't even know if they're upside down," said lead study author Jean Just, a taxonomist at the Natural History Museum of Denmark.

The two new species described in the study were officially named Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides. Their tops are flat discs about 0.5 inches (about 1 centimeter) wide.

Inside the discs, a fan of digestive tubes delivers nutrients, radiating outward like bicycle tire spokes. The center "mouth" opens into the stalk, and is probably for both eating food and excreting waste, Just said. (Many primitive species have this single gut.) Of the two new species, one has a shorter stalk and smaller disc compared with the other, though the difference is only a few millimeters.  Read more about these strange new deep sea life forms.