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In the Deep Blue Sea

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Science  29 Jan 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5965, pp. 519
DOI: 10.1126/science.327.5965.519

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The deep sea may not seem like a crucible of evolution. But, to the surprise of biologists, a new construction of the coral family tree suggests that evolution proceeds at full bore in waters well below where sunlight penetrates. Moreover, some coral diversity may have bloomed there first, before spreading coastward—the reverse of what has long been thought. At a meeting in Seattle earlier this month, a dozen experts celebrated progress in assembling an improved family tree showing the relatedness of jellyfish, corals, anemones, and hydra, which are collectively known as cnidarians.