Tardigrades are small, incredibly hardy animals that can withstand many threats, including many that would destroy most other creatures known to science.
Various tardigrade species have adapted to specific habitats around the world, from mountains to oceans to ice. Their courage can also help them to survive dangerous situations beyond the safety of their habitat, which can lead to luck.
In another study, researchers show a new example of tardigrade biodiversity – previously unknown species adapted to sand dunes – and provide new evidence that tardigrades find habitat by climbing inside shells.
The newly discovered tardigrade comes from Rokua National Park in Finland’s North Ostrobothnia region, where researchers found it living on lichens and lichens in a dune forest.
Rokua’s features were formed by ice and wind, forming mounds and other features: eskers, kames, and kettle holes. The area also has a forest along the edge of the lichen dunes, which is under threat due to human activities.
Led by Matteo Vecchi, a biologist at the University of Jyvaskyla, a team of scientists went to Rokua to collect grass, algae, leaf litter, and weeds from the sand.
Not only did they find tardigrades, but they found a new species. It is the fifth known member of the Macrobiotus pseudohufelandi complex, a small group of tardigrades with adaptations such as reduced legs and claws to sit on the ground.
The researchers named the species Macrobiota and othersa reference to Nagini, the snake character from the “Harry Potter” books.
“Initially a cursed woman who was eventually transformed into a beast without legs and arms, this fictional character gives a fitting name to this new creature in the universe. pseudohufland complications, which are also characterized by reduced limbs and claws,” he writes.
Like many terrestrial animals, tardigrades can adapt their small legs to be upright enough to fly through soil or sand, researchers say.
And while all tardigrades need water, they also have a high ability to survive long dry periods, which can be useful in very dry environments.
With anhydrobiosis, tardigrades remove water from their bodies into a dry, indestructible substance called a tun. In this suspended environment, the tardigrade can live for years or decades, then suddenly returns to the surface of the water.
The tun world can protect tardigrades from many other dangers, including extreme heat, high pressure, lack of oxygen, X-ray blasts, gunfire, and exposure to empty space.
This ability may help tardigrades cope with dry weather in their habitats, or it may help them adapt to new environments by protecting them from inhospitable environments. like the wind has reaped.
However, in another study, Vecchi and his colleagues find that the tun state is not the only way tardigrades go. They are very wet due to anhydrobiosis in the guts of snails, for example, but their research shows that swallowing and hiding with snails is a good way to move, although there is no evidence that the new species moves in this way.
Microorganisms such as nematodes and oribatid mites can also survive through the guts of snails, as can some lichens, mosses, and ferns.
This study suggests that the same is true for tardigrades, although other studies have shown that snails do not have a history of protecting tardigrades.
The researchers found 10 tardigrades from wild snail feces (Herbs of Aryanta) in a field in Finland, five of them were alive. They also fed 694 tardigrades to snails in the lab, and later removed 218 live tardigrades from the snails’ feces.
They found 78 dead tardigrades in the feces and explained another 398 “may have been digested and destroyed by the snail’s digestive system”.
However, 31 percent is not zero, and the tardigrades that survived continued to reproduce successfully in the lab.
The snails passed through the tardigrades for several days, and most of the survivors emerged on the second day, the study found. And although snails are not known for their speed, they can move faster than tardigrades because of their size.
According to a previous study, on average, these snails move 0.18 to 0.58 meters per day, and can reach about 5 meters per day.
The researchers found that passing through the guts of snails for two days allowed tardigrades to travel up to 10 meters per trip, a long distance for animals less than a millimeter in size.
Tardigrades cannot choose where the snails take them and may be unwilling travelers. But these snails love moist, mossy habitats – like tardigrades – so any remaining ones have a good chance of living somewhere more hospitable.
This study was published in Zoological Studies and Ecology.