In one of the key experiments in support of his theory, marine biologist, Don Williamson, working in collaboration with marine biologist Sebastian Holmes and biology student Nic Boerboom from the Netherlands Institute, at Texel conducted a hybrid cross in which they fertilised the eggs of the sea urchin, Psammechinus miliaris, with the sperm of the sea squirt, Echinus esculentus.
The outcome was frankly astonishing - and remains enigmatic even today.The majority of the offspring hatched out as the easel-shaped "pluteus" larvae typical of sea urchins. But these larvae did not develop as one would expect of plutei. The majority went on to retract their arms and to metamorphose into a much simpler, rounded form,which Williamson called a "spheroid".
Then something even more dramatic happened.
The spheroids began to reproduce by budding - an asexual mode of reproduction that is known to happen in other species of the paternal sea squirt but is unknown in either of the parents of the hybrids.
If this offspring were confirmed, by genetic and molecular testing, to be a genuine hybrid - and to be honest it is difficult to imagine what else it might be - it could be argued that Williamson, Holmes and Boerboom had created the first laboratory generated organism - "life form" to lay people.
Scientists who would like more details can contact Dr Ryan through the contact page.