Have you seen this creature?

A mysterious organism discovered 28 years ago is still baffling researchers

Danish researchers are stumped by sea creatures found off the south coast of Australia in 1986, and have called upon other researchers to help identify them.

The tree of life
All living things are divided into categories, and then placed into a hierarchy taking number, family and type into account. This comes together into what is sometimes called ‘the tree of life’.

“We are sure that these organisms belong in the animal kingdom,” Jørgen Olesen, of the State’s Natural History Museum, said in a press release.

However where in the tree of life they belong has mystified the researchers. Danish university researchers also got in on the act, but could not find a known animal group in which to place them.

Preserved over time
The creatures, given the latin names Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides, were pulled up from between 400 and 1,000 meters deep by the Australian research ship ORV Franklin.

Nearly 20 varying examples of the small creatures were found and have been preserved in formalin to ensure they keep their form.

“Formalin destroys the DNA, but preserves the morphology and appearance very well,” Olesen explained. This is somewhat of a mixed blessing, as whilst DNA is important to today’s researchers in understanding organisms, the preservation of the organism’s appearance means it should, theoretically, be easy to identify.

The creatures, however, remain elusive. Jean Just, who was present at the discovery of the animals in 1986, has since returned to the site and failed to recover any.     

It seems like these organisms have become some of Denmark’s most wanted.