Researchers in Halifax have found an entirely new branch of organisms on the tree of life. (The Simpson Lab, Dalhousie University.

A new previously unknown branch on the tree of life discovered


Canadian researchers have discovered an entirely new organism that is like no other.

The microbe is a single, but complex cell organism, and is like no other previously known organism. Therefore it has its own unique branch on the tree of life. The family is called Hemimastigophora

Alistair Simpson (PhD) is lead author of the findings. He is a professor in the Biology department and a member of the Centre for Comparative Genomics and Evolutionary Bioinformatics at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia



The microbe’s lineage goes back about a billion years in evolutionary history when it established its own unique branch unlike any other. It branched off with other complex cell organisms, like plants and animals, but then continued on its own path to this day.

The microbe, in fact two species, were found in a piece of ordinary dirt along a trail in Nova Scotia.

Alistair Simpson and co-author, Yana Eglit (Dalhousie U)

The research was published in the science journal Nature, under the title, “Hemimastigophora is a novel supra-kingdom-level lineage of eukaryotes”  (abstract HERE)

Simpson says that the group probably exists around the world in a variety of environments, warm, cool, ocean, lake, and land.  He says however, while they would be in the same category, they would likely be much different species. This would be similar to the case of birds as a group, but particular species within the group could be quite different, like sparrows and eagles, or in mammals, like humans and whales.

Researchers actually found tws species of the complex single cell microbe enabling them to determine this was an entirely new and unique family of organisms (The Simpson Lab, Dalhousie University.)

Simpson also points out something that few of us realise, and that is the importance of microbes in how the ecosystems of the planet run, and that half the oxygen we breathe was created not by plants, but by microbes.

Simpson says the discovery will help in studying and understanding the fundamental place of humans and all other life on Earth

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