Friday 16 May 2014

A new species of Tardigrade from Latvia.

Tardigrades are small animals (adult sizes of 0.1-1.5 mm) distantly related to Arthropods and Onychophorans (Velvet Worms). They are plump segmented aquatic animals with eight legs, noted for their tolerance of extreme conditions. Tardigrades have been found living in hot springs, from under layers of ice in the high Himalayas, and in deep ocean trenches. They have been demonstrated experimentally to be capable of surviving temperatures from about -272℃ (only slightly above absolute zero) to about 151℃, and to be able to survive pressures from complete vacuums to about 6000 atmospheres (six times the pressure in the deepest ocean trenches), and are tolerant of high radiation levels and dehydration. Tardigrades have been demonstrated to be capable of surviving on the outside of a spacecraft in low Earth orbit for at least 10 days.

In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 13 May 2014, Krzysztof Zawierucha and Jakub Dziamięcki of the Department of Animal Taxonomy and Ecology at Adam Mickiewicz University, Natalia Jakubowska of the Department of Water Protection at Adam Mickiewicz University, Łukasz Michalczyk of the Department of Entomology at Jagiellonian University and Łukasz Kaczmarek also of the Department of Animal Taxonomy and Ecology at Adam Mickiewicz University, describe a new species of Tardigrade from the Gauja National Park in Latvia, as part of a wider study of Tardigrades in the Baltic States.

The new species is placed in the genus Minibiotus, and given the specific name formosus, meaning 'beautiful' Minibiotus formosus is a 113-236 μm colourless or white Tardigrade, with an external cuticle (skin) covered in round or oval pores. The species is described from 24 specimens collected from moss within the Gutmana Cave, roughly 45 m above sea level.

Minibiotus formosus in ventral view. Scale bar is 20 μm. Zawierucha et al. (2014).

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