Tardigrade Update: A New Type of Tardigrade Revealed!

At Astonishing Legends, we love waterbears, also known as tardigrades. Seriously! You can read another AL blog post that goes over them here. Naturally, we like to stay abreast with all tardigrade updates and there was a particularly notable one at the end of February 2018. A new type of tardigrade has been discovered!

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Scientists recently discovered an entirely new species of tardigrades living amongst the moss on the surface of a Japanese parking lot. How did these creatures hiding in plain sight go undiscovered for so long? Well...why would you look for a tardigrade in a parking lot?

Luckily, a bioscientist named Kzuharu Arakawa, moved into an apartment complex that used this parking lot. Curiosity likely got the best of this bioscientist and one day he decided to take a sample of moss from the building’s parking lot for analysis.

Furthermore, and even luckier, Arakawa actually studies the molecular biology of tardigrades! Arkaware told LiveScience, "Most of [the] tardigrade species were described from mosses and lichens—thus any cushion of moss seems to be interesting for people working on tardigrades," Arakawa told LiveScience in an email. But, he said, "it was quite surprising to find a new species around my apartment!”

This newfound tardigrade has been named ‘Macrobiotus shonaicus” and is the 168th species that has been discovered in Japan. There are roughly 1,200 species of tardigrades overall.

Arakawa notes that he rounteily samples moss he finds around town, but simply got lucky with the discovery in his parking lot. Another special thing, he noted, was that the tardigrades he discovered were not only able to survive in a laboratory environment, but they could also reproduce in them which is rare.

The eggs of  this tardigrade (Macrobiotus shonaicus) are also of note. Its eggs “have a solid surface and flexible filaments protruding outwards, similar to those of two other recently described species, M. paulinae from Africa and M. polypiformis from South America.” Furthermore, Scientific American reports that these eggs are studded with “miniscule, chalice-shaped protrusions, each of which is topped with a ring of delicate, noodle-like filaments. ” It is guessed that these filaments may aid in the egg attaching to the surface where its laid.

Another strange thing about its reproduction, “M. shonaicus has two sexes, where other tardigrades that are culturable in labs have been mostly parthenogenetic (females reproduce by themselves without male population)."

We can’t wait to see what we learn next about these fascinating creatures!


Image: A new species of tardigrade, Macrobiotus shonaicus, has been discovered in Japan. Image: D. Stec et al., 2018