Tardigrades, also called water bears and moss piglets, are microscopic animals that have been found capable of surviving extreme conditions.
Now, researchers identified a new species of tardigrade that was discovered in the parking lot of an apartment building in Japan.
Found In A Parking Lot Of A Tardigrade Researcher's Apartment
Kazuharu Arakawa, from Keio University in Japan who studies the molecular biology of tardigrades, found the new species in a moss scraped from the parking lot of his apartment in Tsuruoka City.
Arakawa explained that most species of tardigrades were described from mosses and lichens, so people working on tardigrades find mosses interesting. Nonetheless, he admitted that it was a surprise to find the new species around his apartment.
The tardigrades he found also appear to be special. He realized that these could survive and reproduce in laboratory environment. He said that this is very rare for these creatures.
New Species Of Tardigrade
Arakawa realized the tiny animal is different when he sequences its genome and found that it did not match previously found tardigrade sequence. After working with other tardigrade experts, it was determined that the tardigrade was a newfound species.
Prior to the discovery of the Macrobiotus shonaicus, there were already 167 known species of the micro-animal that was discovered in the country.
"This is the first original description of the hufelandi group species from Japan, and now, the number of tardigrade species known from this country has increased to 168," Arakawa and colleagues reported.
The species was between 318 micrometers to 743 micrometers in length and has the common plump-caterpillar appearance of a tardigrade. It has an O-shaped mouth with three rows of teeth.
Arakawa and colleagues also found that the species can live on algae, which is odd since other species belonging to the Macrobiotus genus eat tinier animals known as rotifers.
The weirdest aspect of the microscopic creature, however, is its spherical eggs that are studded with protrusions that are individually topped with a ring of noodle-like filaments. Arakawa said that these possibly help the eggs attach to the surface where they are laid.
"The main characters that make M. shonaicus different from other congeners are those of egg ornamentation, such as solid egg surface between processes (i.e., without reticulation or pores) or flexible filaments at the end of egg processes (that are known only in two other species of the group, one from Africa and the other from South America)," said Daniel Stec from the Jagiellonian University, Poland.
The characteristics of the newfound tardigrade species was described in a study published in the journal PLOS ONE on Feb. 28.