A New Tardigrade Species is Found Hiding in a Parking Lot

Wednesday, 28 February 2018 - 7:45PM
Earth
Wednesday, 28 February 2018 - 7:45PM
A New Tardigrade Species is Found Hiding in a Parking Lot
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Wikimedia Commons/Frank Fox/Mikro-Foto.de
Water bears, more formally known as tardigrades, are among the most indestructible animals on the planet. At just 0.02 inches (0.5 millimeters) long, the tiny animals can survive extreme heat, extreme cold, high pressures, low pressures, high radiation, etc.

Which makes it rather curious that an entirely new species of tardigrade was discovered in an otherwise normal parking lot in Tsuruoka, Japan. Now officially dubbed Macrobiotus shonaicus, it's the 168th species of tardigrade found in Japan alone.

According to the Public Library of Science (PLOS), the tardigrade species was dug up from a clump of moss by Kazuharu Arakawa from Keio University, and this find is an especially creepy variety of the animal.



M. shonaicus has been identified as a member of a particular tardigrade branch that has extra bulges and folds on its eight legs, and its unique eggs have solid surfaces and gross-looking filaments protruding from their tops (researchers later bred the new species when more specimens were found in that parking lot).

This all makes the new species a mismash of several other tardigrade species, not too different but certainly not like any species we've uncovered so far. And to find it in such a harmless place is surprising, given the durable nature of the animal.




In the future, there's a good chance that tardigrades could be the first living animal launched into interstellar space. It won't be soon, but once we're at the point where we're considering sending living things beyond our solar system, we'll need to test whether the hardiest animals could survive such a trip. And if tardigrades can't make it in space, then we humans would have no chance.

But in the meantime, we'll have to be content with knowing they can survive nearly anywhere on Earth, and that if some catastrophe strikes, these strange parking lot water bears will survive just as easily as every other water bear.
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