Sea Creature Reclassified As New Kind of Marine Animal

PHOTO: This unidentified specimen belonging within Relicanthidae is a sea creature that was previously thought to be a giant sea anemone (order Actiniaria).

Appearances can be deceiving.

The giant-tentacled monster of the sea, once thought to be a sea anemone, is actually an impostor that belongs to a new order of animals, according to scientists at the American Museum of Natural History.

The finding is the result of a four-year study in which researchers created a "tree of life" for the estimated 1,200 species of sea anemones, which are called "flowers of the sea" and are predatory animals.

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The animal, previously called the Boloceroides daphneae, was discovered in the deep Pacific Ocean in 2006 and was believed to be one of the largest sea anemones in existence.

Researchers have now renamed the species Relicanthus daphneae and have placed it into a new order in the animal kingdom.

"The discovery of this new order of Cnidaria—a phylum that includes jellyfish, corals, sea anemones, and their relatives—is the equivalent to finding the first member of a group like primates or rodents," said Estefanía Rodríguez, an assistant curator in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology and the lead author of the study, said in a statement.

"The difference is that most people are far more familiar with animals like chimpanzees and rats than they are with life on the ocean floor," she added. "But this amazing finding tells us that we have so much more to learn and discover in the ocean."

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