Secrets of the baffling tardigrades revealed by their DNA, on their origins and the genes that underlie their extraordinary ability to survive in extreme conditions.
A team of researchers from the universities of Edinburgh, Scotland and Keio, Japan, led by Mark Blaxter and Kazuharu Arakawa, have carefully stitched together the DNA code for tardigrade, also known as water bears or moss piglets. Their results are presented in an article published in PLoS Biology.
Above, image: Kazuharu Arakawa and Hiroki Higashiyama, background edited by Ryan F. Mandelbaum
Tardigrades are microscopic animals, famous for their stunning ability to withstand complete dehydration. They have been frozen, sent into space, exposed to radiation and still they coming back to life.
The new research suggesting that tardigrade DNA has no evidence that these special micro animals use extraordinary means to survive.
Professor Mark Blaxter said:
“I have been fascinated by these tiny, endearing animals for two decades. It is wonderful to finally have their true genomes, and to begin to understand them. It has also been great to work with Kazuharu Arakawa and his Japanese colleagues on this – science is truly global, and together we achieved exciting things. This is just the start – with the DNA blueprint we can now find out how tardigrades resist extremes, and perhaps use their special proteins in biotechnology and medical applications.”