It belongs to a different, new order, researchers say.
“Anemones are very simple animals,” Rodríguez said. “Because of this, they are grouped together by their lack of characters — for example, the absence of a skeleton or the lack of colony-building, like you see in corals. So it wasn’t a huge surprise when we began to look at their molecular data and found that the traditional classifications of anemones were wrong.”
The researchers compared particular sections of DNA of more than 112 species of anemones collected from oceans around the world. Based on genetic data and the organization of their internal structures, the scientists reduced the sub-orders of anemones from four to two.
They also discovered that one of species that they analyzed is not a sea anemone at all. This animal, previously called Boloceroides daphneae, was discovered in 2006 in the deep east Pacific Ocean and labeled as one of the largest sea anemones in existence. But the new study shifts it outside of the tree of life for anemones. Instead, the researchers placed it in a newly created order — a classification equal to carnivoria in mammals or crocodilia in reptiles — under the sub-class Hexacorallia, which includes stony corals, anemones, and black corals. The new name of the animal, which lives next to hydrothermal vents, is Relicanthus daphneae.
Relicanthus daphneae is a classic example of convergent evolution, the independent evolution of similar features in species of different lineages.
“Even though this animal looks very much like a sea anemone, it is not one,” Rodríguez said. “Both groups of animals lack the same characters, but our research shows that while the anemones lost those characters over millions of years of evolution, R. daphneae never had them. Putting these animals in the same group would be like classifying worms and snakes together because neither have legs.”
This is the creature, doing business under the old name:
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