by Richard Harris
http://www.npr.org/2011/05/12/136207874 ... ee-of-life
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Scientists say they have just now discovered an entirely new branch on the tree of life. It's made up of mysterious microscopic organisms. They're related to fungus, but they are so different, you could argue that they deserve their very own kingdom, alongside plants and animals.
."About 10 years ago, people started using molecular approaches," he says. "So they started targeting the DNA in the environment, specifically." Using those techniques, they struck pay dirt. They found novel bits of DNA — related to fungi, but clearly different from all of the known varieties — just about everywhere, "including pond water, lake water, freshwater sediments and marine sediments," Richards says. "Almost everywhere we looked we found this novel group." They then brought samples back to the lab and devised a technique to make the organisms containing this novel DNA glow under a microscope. As a result, they've managed to get a few glimpses of these mysterious life forms, which they have named cryptomycota.