The first animals that do not depend on oxygen to breathe and
reproduce have been discovered by scientists on the bed of the
By Nick Collins
Published: 10:34AM BST 09 Apr 2010
Comments 22 | Comment on this article
New species 'live without oxygen'
One of the species has been named Spinoloricus Cinzia, after Dr Danovaro's wife
Three species of creature, which are only a millimetre long and
resemble jellyfish encased in shells, were found 2.2 miles (3.5km)
underwater on the ocean floor, 124 miles (200km) off the coast of
Crete, in an area with almost no oxygen.
The animals, named Loriciferans due to their protective layer, or
lorica, were discovered by a team led by Roberto Danovaro from Marche
Polytechnic University in Ancona, Italy.
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One of the species has been named Spinoloricus Cinzia, after Dr
Danovaro's wife, while the other two, known as Rugiloricus and
Pliciloricus, have yet to be formally named.
They were found during three expeditions to find life in the sediment
of L'Atlante basin in the Mediterranean, which took place over the
course of a decade.
Professor Danovaro told BBC News bodies of multicellular animals had
been found in sediment from a similarly oxygen-starved area of the
Black Sea, but they were thought to have been carried there from
adjacent oxygenated water.
The species found in the latest expedition were alive, two of them
containing eggs, and though they died on extraction the eggs were
successfully incubated on the ship, and hatched in an oxygen-starved
The professor said: "It is a real mystery how these creatures are able
to live without oxygen because until now we thought only bacteria
could do this."
Lisa Levin, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, wrote in the
journal BMC Biology that further research into animals that can live
without oxygen could help scientists examining the possibility of
alien life existing on other planets.