BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: Tardigrades

Tardigrades: Tiny Survivors in Denmark

What happened to the Tardigrade when it was bit by a zombie…? The tardigrade went into cryptobiosis,  half-dead state! 
Waterbear

The University of Copenhagen’s research reveals the widespread presence of microscopic water bears, or tardigrades, in Denmark’s diverse environments. Previously associated with extreme locations like Mount Everest and deep seas, tardigrades were found in soil, moss, and rain gutters across the country. Using environmental DNA analysis, scientists identified 96 unique tardigrade DNA sequences, indicating a diverse and previously underestimated population.

Tardigrades, resembling chubby teddy bears, exhibit unparalleled resilience, surviving freezing temperatures, desiccation, extreme radiation, and even the vacuum of outer space. Tardigrades, with unique genomic features enabling resilience in these harsh environments, intrigue scientists exploring the genetic mechanisms behind their remarkable adaptability. The study, the first of its kind in over 50 years, highlights the importance of tardigrades in local ecosystems and their unique ability to enter cryptobiosis, a state where metabolic activities are suspended. This extraordinary survival mechanism sparks interest in various scientific fields, including biomedicine and space research, as researchers explore the potential applications of tardigrade abilities in enhancing the resilience of other organisms. According to the article ‘Once-in-a generation’ tardigrade fossil discovery reveals new species in 16-million-year-old amber, discovering rare tardigrade fossils, like Pdo. chronocaribbeus, can help scientists learn more about the changes that happened during important events in tardigrade evolution. This includes understanding how they became some of Earth’s tiniest animals with legs.

In AP Bio’s Unit 3 on Cell Communication, we explored the world of Tardigrades very vaguely, but I was intrigued to know more. As part of the learning experience, I took the opportunity to complete an extra credit creative project about Tardigrades. I discovered so many captivating and cool facts about these water bugs. Although labeled as aquatic due to their dependence on water to prevent dehydration, Tardigrades possess a remarkable capacity to withstand extremely dry and harsh conditions. A key player in this resilience is the Tardigrade-specific Intrinsically Disordered Protein (TDP). When tardigrades experience dehydration, TDP replaces intracellular water, forming a glass-like substance. This unique mechanism preserves the integrity of their cellular structures, contributing to their ability to endure hostile environments.

In my creative Tardigrade project, I reimagined Tyler, the Creator’s “Flower Boy” album cover by replacing the bees with tardigrades. As I explored the connection between tardigrades and the album’s meaning, I discovered their remarkable ability to endure extreme environments, mirroring the metaphorical journey depicted in “Flower Boy.” Much like tardigrades thriving in harsh habitats, Tyler, the Creator explores the resilience needed to navigate life’s extremes. The album’s aquatic imagery aligns with tardigrades’ dependence on water for survival, fittingly nicknamed “water bears.” Water, symbolizing life and change, parallels the exploration of fluctuating experiences and emotions in “Flower Boy,” echoing the dynamic environments where tardigrades thrive. 

The University of Copenhagen’s research highlights the widespread presence and remarkable resilience of tardigrades in Denmark. From genetic studies to creative projects, the exploration emphasizes the significance of these tiny creatures in scientific understanding and survival strategies. What’s your take on the incredible resilience of tardigrades? Share your thoughts or any interesting facts you know!

Tardigrades: New findings regarding their durability and survivability while dried out

Tardigrades, also known as water bears, have caught the eye of many biologists due to their immense resilience and their ability to survive under extreme conditions. Tardigrades have been able to survive extreme temperatures, extreme pressures, oxygen deprivation, radiation, starvation, dehydration, and even the vacuum of outer space.

SEM image of Milnesium tardigradum in active state - journal.pone.0045682.g001-2

Among these phenomenons, their ability to survive while dehydrated has caused great confusion for scientists for many years. Recently, however, new research has been done at the University of Wyoming to help understand how Tardigrades are able to survive in a dried out state.

For a long time Scientists thought that Tardigrades did not possess the sugar molecule called Trehalose. Trehalose is usually the molecule found in organisms that can survive with a lack of water, however scientists had not found any evidence of Trehalose in Tardigrades until now. In October of 2022 scientists have finally found trace amounts of Trehalose in tardigrades, only less than the amount found in other organisms.

Trehalose is a disaccharide consisting of two molecules of glucose. It has very high water retention capabilities which is why organisms that synthesize it are able to survive with a lack of water. As we learned in AP BIO, because Trehalose is a disaccharide, the two molecules of glucose were formed together through a process called dehydration synthesis. (the removal of a water molecule to join two monomers) The resulting chemical formula for this would be C12H22O11 instead of C12H24O12 because of the removal of the water molecule. 

Now, with this new information scientists hope that better understanding tardigrades and their synergy with trehalose can help solve problems of water scarcity throughout the world. Understanding Trehalose could help with farming in areas of the world that don’t naturally get the water they need. By applying the adaptation abilities of tardigrades to organisms that wouldn’t otherwise survive under harsh conditions, trehalose could be a massive step in better crop engineering in harsh environments across the world. According to the national library of medicine, “Increasing trehalose accumulation in crop plants could improve drought and salinity tolerance.” An example of this working has already been proven in this study with rice. The scientists had a control plant that wasn’t transformed with trehalose, and several independent transgenic rice plants. The evidence showed that when the rice was fused with trehalose it “exhibited sustained plant growth, less photo-oxidative damage, and more favorable mineral balance under salt, drought, and low-temperature stress conditions.” All of these things make for an interesting future in the world of engineered crops.

Tardigrades and a New Species!

If you’re a biology lover like myself, you probably spend a good chunk of time before you go to bed every night wondering, “When are we going to find a new species of tardigrade?” Well, you’re in luck, because recently a new species of tardigrade, the Echiniscoides wyethi, was discovered. For those of you who don’t know what tardigrades are, they are water-dwelling micro-animals with eight legs.  Tardigrades are incredible creatures because they can survive in some of the most extreme environments, including temperatures ranging just above absolute zero to over 100° Celsius. These tough creatures are often called “water bears”, and many scientists will tell you they look similar to a hippopotamus- although on a much smaller scale. Tardigrades also can survive for over 10 years without food or water. When they go into these long periods of not eating or drinking, called desiccated states, their water contents can drop below 1% of normal. They are able to do this because of their high trehalose levels. Trehalose is a disaccharide sugar, which protects their cell membranes. This state is known as a cryptobiotic state. Tardigrades in this state are known as Tuns. Tuns have been sent to space; the European Space Agency once conducted an experiment in which they sent Tuns to space and exposed them to harsh solar radiation as well as the vacuum of space- two thirds of the tuns survived the conditions. The new species of tardigrade was found near Allen Island in Maine. It is named the Echiniscoides Wyethi, named after the artist Andrew Wyeth and his family, who own the island. The species measures about one-sixteenth of an inch, and has been described as looking like a “gummy bear” under a microscope. Delicious, however, due to its size, it can’t be too filling! Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 9.08.28 PMImage from Wikipedia

 

Additional Articles:

The Tardigrade: Practically invisible, Indestructible ‘Water Bears’

Researches Discover New Tiny Organism, Name it for Wyeths

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