Nature's toughest surprises again

Research into life elsewhere in the universe must begin with life on our own planet. For in finding life in extremely harsh and inhospitable conditions here, scientists can determine how likely it is to find life on planets both suitable for life, and also those planets that at first glance, are not. The latest search for life has led scientists to the Antarctic coast where a new species of Tardigrade has been discovered.

The Tardigrade is nature’s most resilient animal; it can live in the ocean’s deepest recesses, or on the plains of the most arid of deserts. Being only a quarter of a millimeter long, these animals are invisible to the naked eye. But, their size and unique physical attributes means they can survive conditions of extremes; in boiling water, in ice, and even in space.

The new discovery is part of the Tardigrade family, however with a different hair pattern, and with extra pads of a reddish colour behind its claws it is a different species, called Mopsechinicus franciscae. Being a different species means its discovery in Antarctica is also very significant in learning of its evolutionary past. Scientists hope to use the information on the new species of Tardigrade to research further into life’s origins in Antarctica, which was once part of the super continent Gondwana. The findings were published in the Polar Biology journal.

 

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Peter Moulding

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