Tardigrades ride snails | Science and life


Eight-legged creatures of the tardigrade are famous for their resistance to anything: they withstand the temperature of liquid nitrogen, pressure of 6000 atmospheres and a dose of radioactive radiation more than a thousand times higher than that which is fatal to humans; they are sent into outer space, from which many of them return alive and even reproduce relatively successfully.

Against the backdrop of all this extremism, it is somehow forgotten that, in fact, tardigrades do not live in space and do not dive into liquid nitrogen themselves. They really live everywhere, from hot springs to Arctic glaciers, from the Himalayas to the seabed, they feed on the juices of algae, plants, some eat small roundworms, rotifers and other microscopic living creatures. Although they tolerate dry land, they still love water more. And they really walk quietly: with a body size of 0.1–1.5 mm, they crawl 2–3 mm per minute. How do they then spread around the world?

First, they are carried by currents and winds. But the current and the wind can bring them to a not very pleasant place. You can also stick to someone, for example, to a bird – but even with a bird you will not necessarily fly to where you like it. It is better to travel on someone who likes to live in the same place as you. The Adam Mickiewicz University staff came up with the idea that tardigrades could be transported by snails: they also like wet things, and they themselves are wet.

More than half a century ago, this question was already of interest to someone: the history of science knows a certain publication that said that a snail can transport a tardigrade inside itself by simply eating it. There will be nothing for the tardigrade, it will fall out along with feces in some new place. But the scientific history of the relationship between tardigrades and snails was limited to this. And now the researchers decided to experiment with a forest snail and a tardigrade Milnesium Initiative: on the way of the snail there was a drop of water with tardigrades, in addition, the snail had to crawl through wet moss, again with tardigrades on it.

In general, everything worked out: the snail touched a drop of water, and the tardigrades stuck into its mucus and drove for some distance – the ulicts proved that they can be an effective transport for tardigrades. But along the way, it turned out that it was better not to fall asleep for the tardigrades before such a trip. The fact is that while a film of water remains on the body of the tardigrade, it is quite active, crawling, feeding and multiplying. If the water dries up, the tardigrade falls into anhydrobiosis – a special condition that allows you to survive dehydration. It turned out that if a snail touches a dry sleeping tardigrade, it, feeling wet, will begin to wake up – but it would be better for it not to do this, because snail mucus dries quickly. A half-awake tardigrade discovers that there is no water on it, but it cannot return right there and then back to anhydrobiosis – and dies. In an article in Scientific Reports it is said that only 34% of the sleeping tardigrades caught by the snail survived: they probably rode the snail long enough and had time to fully wake up before they were thrown from the transport.

In general, tardigrades, despite their legendary resistance to everything possible, sometimes find completely unexpected weaknesses in themselves. So, two years ago we wrote that they, it turns out, are afraid of heat. That is, they can be boiled for an hour at 151 ° C, and nothing will happen to them, but at the same time, half of the active tardigrades die if they are kept at some 37.1 ° C for two days.


Source: Автономная некоммерческая организация "Редакция журнала «Наука и жизнь»" by www.nkj.ru.

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