Tardigrades are some of the most durable life forms on the planet, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that scientists want to learn more about them. In fact, a team of researchers from Jagiellonian University recently traveled from Poland to Japan in an attempt to locate some for scientific research.
When they arrived, they stumbled upon a moss-infested parking lot. Tardigrades love these types of environments, so the researchers began taking samples that they could analyze later. And it’s a good thing they did…
Image Credit: Stec et al (2018)
After studying their samples with phase contrast light microscopy (PCM) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM), among other methods, the researchers discovered more than they initially bargained for. They found tardigrades, but they also stumbled upon an entirely new species. The findings have been published in the journal PLOS ONE this week.
Citing the paper, the team paid particular attention to the tardigrades’ eggs and found features consistent with the persimilis subgroup of the hufelandi complex. Solid surfaces and flexible filaments, which are consistent with two known tardigrades from Africa and South America, were just some of the features they discerned.
But the primary differentiator was the DNA analysis, which confirmed that the species didn’t match any known tardigrades in existence. That said, M. shonaicus is now being recognized as an entirely different species, and that raises the number of known tardigrade species native to Japan from 167 to 168.
There are more than a thousand known tardigrade species around the globe, but the latest discovery emphasizes how we still have much to learn about the microscopic world. Given just how vast and diverse our planet is, probing additional parts of the globe may yield fascinating new results.