Trichoplax adhaerens, Earth Simplest Animal Hero!

 

From the Secret Pages Of The Official Handbook for the Animal Heroes Universe:

The Two-Dimensional Trichoplax adhaerens

“Once just an overlooked animalcule, Trichoplax adhaerens has transformed into the world’s simplest animal hero!”

Real Name:  Animalia Eumetazoa ParaHoxozoa Placozoa Trichoplacidae Trichoplax adhaerens

Secret Identity:  T. adhaerens, “Hair-plate adherent”

Known Relatives:  None, but few dare swim where such monsters dwell, leaving  T. adhaerens the only known member of phylum Placozoa.  Those venturing to examine the misunderstood micro-animal’s genes report eight variations.  Perhaps one day science shall define it’s family, but until that day, this cryptogenic creature creeps across the globe alone.

Group Affiliation:  Unknown – T. adhaerens is probably one of the earliest branches of the Animal Hero Universe, but exactly from where is debated.

Base Of Operations:  Just about any surface in coastal tidal zones of tropical and subtropical seas.

First Appearance:  The Zoological Institute in Graz, Austria 1

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Origin:  Learned German anatomist and zoologist Franz Eilhard Schulze first discovered this amazing organism by chance in a seawater aquarium.  Intrigued, Schulze studied this surprisingly simple creature at his ‘Schulze’s Fish Tank for Gifted Sponges’ beginning in 1883.  The imaginative Shulze astutely gave it the heroic name T. adhaerens, for its astounding structure and adhesive abilities and recognized it as worthy of its own, new animal phylum, but he was defeated by the super-villain zoologist Thilo Krumbach who declared it as no more than a Hydrozoa larva for his own evil ends in 1907.  The fearsome Krumbach’s lies remained in print, discouraging further study until the German protozoologist Karl Gottlieb Grell bravely countered them with his own scientific scrutiny during the Silver Age of the 1960s and 70s.

Description:  Nearly invisible, Trichoplax adhaerens can be mistaken for an unassuming speck no larger than a sesame seed.  Up close, this planar Placozoa is about as simple a multi-cellular animal hero could possibly be, resembling a grayish, transparent three-layered pancake covered in slime.  The animal’s top layer is made of skin-like cells that cover the “fibre syncytium” below, a strange liquid-filled cavity inside the beast.  This weird wetness is held open by star-shaped fibers and, undeterred by its staggeringly simple structure, almost mimics nerve and muscle functions like those of more advanced life forms.  These top two layers move about on the bottom layer of cylinder cells bearing many cilia, hiding its daunting digestive cells.  With only about a thousand layered cells of only six types 2, the tissue-less T. adhaerens has an obvious top and a bottom, but no front or rear end, body symmetry, internal organs, or sense of right or wrong 3

Mutant Status:  This hexacellular animal hero has the smallest genome of any animal yet studied by mutant science, only six chromosomes of  about 98 million base pairs 4.

Known Super Powers:

  1. Dual Locomotion — These malleable microscopic mites may move by either by crawling on the cilia stirring on their underside, or by stretching out their body like a formless amoebas.  Mindless, T. adhaerens can even move in two different directions at once, tearing itself apart.
  2. Dual Digestion — A horribly hungry T. adhaerens eats eat in one of two disturbing ways.  It may climb over an unfortunate algae or other minuscule water creature and ooze dangerous digestive enzymes from cells without cilia on its underside, sometimes even pulling in part of itself to create a pocket as a temporary stomach to help make absorbing its gruesome meal more efficient.  T. adhaerens’ other method of consuming the unwary is by catching it in the slime coating of its top layer and drawing them in through gaps between the cells, something only a creature without a true skin could do 5.
  3. Rudimentary ReproductionT. adhaerens can double or triple its number by splitting apart as described above, or by budding a spherical collection of all six cell types from its topside.  When in love, a prenatally-inclined Placozoa may be able to reproduce with help of another T. adhaerens, although it’s not well understood how.  Faustian scientists report having seen T. adhaerens begin to swell with water while growing an ovum or gamete cell inside its fibre syncytium as the rest of its body wastes away but for some cells that might be spermatozoa.  Rare reports can’t confirm any observed eggs developing into a new creature, but the mutational genetics of one of the eight forms T. adhaerens show it to be theoretically possible.
  4. Symbiosis — Some bacteria have been found living inside an organelle in the fibre syncytium, perhaps symbiotically, but it’s unknown if this grants T. adhaerens any superpowers.
  5. Extreme RegenerationT. adhaerens is an implacable foe that can easily recover from even the most extreme wounds, being able to regrow itself from even just a handful of cells.  Torn apart, the sturdy cells will also tenaciously reform into a complete T. adhaerens to arise anew – even with cells from two or more individual T. adhaerens.  The persistent Placozoa also has an as-yet unidentified special DNA repair process.
  6. Immortality — Between limitless cloning of itself and that DNA repair superpower, the lifespan of  T. adhaerens has no limit, barring accidents or being eaten by something else.  Who knows what strange tales from the past millennia it could tell, or what adventures await it in the future?