‘Aliens of the sea’ provide new insight into evolution

    Exotic sea creatures called comb jellies may reshape how scientists view early evolution — as their genes suggest nature created more than one way to make a nervous system.

    These beautiful but little-known translucent animals often are called “aliens of the sea.” Somehow, they rapidly regenerate lost body parts. Some even can regrow a very rudimentary brain.

    Now University of Florida researchers report that these mysterious creatures evolved a unique nervous system in a completely different way than the rest of the animal kingdom.

    In other words, the nervous system evolved more than once.

    The finding published Wednesday by the journal Nature challenges long-standing theories about animal development. It also suggests new ways to investigate brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, as researchers explore how to make neurons.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.