Water bears or tardigrades as they are also commonly known might be closer to revealing some more of their secrets thanks to a new set of DNA tests. A team of scientists went to sequence the genetic data of these very resistant and resilient creatures.
Famous for their capacity of surviving even in the harshest conditions, tardigrades once again hit the spotlight as a study revealed that they are most likely to survive until the Sun itself dies out.
Previous research suggested that these animals have a very varied genome, one containing foreign gene sequences from a number of bacteria and animals. Theories stated that this might be a reason behind their unquestionable resistance.
However, a new study goes against these results and shows that the water bears’ genome is, in fact, quite normal.
Latest Water Bears DNA Tests Reveals Their Place in the Animal Kingdom
An international team of scientists led by the Edinburgh University in Scotland and Keio, Japan one are behind this new research. They sequenced gene samples taken from two tardigrade species. Namely, they analyzed the Ramazzottius varieornatus and the Hypsibius dujardini. Then, they compared the results to data from other animals.
This helped them establish which species the tardigrades most resemble. Tests helped reveal that water bears actually belong to their own phylum, one called Tardigrada.
This new research also looked to understand what genes were involved in tardigrades’ survival process. Namely, in the one that helps them withstand almost complete desiccation.
Earlier research tied this survival to a type of protein-based “bioglass”. The latest study went further and mapped out the genes involved. A significant amount of the expressed genes was noted to be involved in the process of DNA repair.
This feature might also be used as the animal ‘repairs’ itself after being hit with a significant radiation dose.
Other of the involved genes helped protect the water bears’ DNA from oxidation damage.
The research team mapped out these gene expressions as the study’s water bears were rehydrating after being dried out.
Study results are available in the PLOS journal.
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