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Two New Species of Glacier Tardigrades Found in New Zealand

Biologists have described two new tardigrade genera and related species — two of that are new to science — from the mountain glaciers of New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

Kopakaius nicolae. Scale bar – 50 µm. Picture credit score: Zawierucha et al., doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2022.107634.

First found in 1773, tardigrades (phylum Tardigrada) are a various group of microscopic invertebrates with eight legs and physique dimension starting from 50-1,200 µm (micrometers).

Also called water bears or moss piglets, these creatures can dwell for as much as 60 years and are well-known for his or her means to outlive excessive circumstances.

They’re able to survive for as much as 30 years with out meals or water, for a couple of minutes at temperatures as little as minus 272 levels Celsius (minus 457 levels Fahrenheit) or as excessive as 150 levels Celsius (302 levels Fahrenheit), and minus 20 levels Celsius (minus 4 levels Fahrenheit) for many years.

They face up to pressures from nearly 0 atm in house as much as 1,200 atm on the backside of the Marianas Trench, and are additionally proof against radiation ranges as much as 5,000-6,200 Gy.

Tardigrades inhabit varied limno-terrestrial (soil, bryophythes, lichens, algae mats) and aquatic (sediments, crops) environments, from polar to tropical areas and from excessive mountains peaks to deep oceans.

As a consequence of their tolerance to unfavorable environmental circumstances, microscopic dimension and long-range dispersal capabilities, they’re cosmopolitan and inhabit distant and infrequently hostile environments.

Though tardigrades are effectively studied worldwide, their variety and ecology in chilly environments stay poorly acknowledged regardless of their necessary roles in trophic webs and ecosystem operate.

The richness of tardigrade species in excessive glacial habitats is comparatively low in comparison with that of surrounding ecosystems, doubtless as a result of robust choice pressures together with completely low temperatures, excessive irradiation, and periodic freezing.

Importantly, glacier tardigrades are principally distinct from their limno-terrestrial counterparts, as evidenced by DNA and/or phenotypic dissimilarity.

Kararehius gregorii. Scale bar - 50 µm. Image credit: Zawierucha et al., doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2022.107634.

Kararehius gregorii. Scale bar – 50 µm. Picture credit score: Zawierucha et al., doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2022.107634.

“We describe two new genera of tardigrades from the buildup zones of three New Zealand glaciers by an integrative taxonomic strategy combining morphological, morphometric and genetic information,” stated lead creator Dr. Krzysztof Zawierucha, a researcher within the Division of Animal Taxonomy and Ecology at Adam Mickiewicz College and the School of Forestry and Wooden Sciences on the Czech College of Life Sciences Prague, and his colleagues from Poland, New Zealand and the US.

“The primary genus, named Kopakaius, shows extraordinary and distinctive morphology that has not been reported in tardigrade literature to this point, whereas the second, Kararehius, is erected from the cosmopolitan, polyphyletic genus Adropion.”

The primary genus is represented by three genetically distinct species, certainly one of which, Kopakaius nicolae, is new to science.

The second features a new species named Kararehius gregorii and three former members of the genus Adropion: Kararehius behanae, Kararehius tricuspidatum, and Kararehius triodon.

Like different excessive mountain glacier tardigrades, Kopakaius tardigrades have darkish pigmentation, whereas Kararehius lack pigmentation, akin to glacial Arctic and Antarctic species.

Kopakaius nicolae inhabits Whataroa Glacier solely whereas the remaining two Kopakaius species happen on Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers, suggesting low dispersal capabilities. Kararehius gregorii inhabits Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers.

“Chilly environments are usually not only a repository of historic invertebrates preserved in a frozen realm, however fairly symbolize extremely energetic ecosystems for viable and various types of micrometazoans, together with tardigrades,” the authors stated.

“Tardigrades have been discovered on snow in forests, snow fields in open mountain areas, in addition to on ice surfaces above the equilibrium line altitude.”

“These findings determine a brand new path for research on psychrophilic metazoans that might be necessary to explain and perceive variety, adaptation, dispersal, and evolutionary hyperlinks between ‘cold-loving’ and ‘cold-resistant’ invertebrates.”

“Our examine contributes to this information by revealing (a) two new genera of tardigrades from glacier ice, (b) their deep phylogenetic construction in mitochondrial DNA, (c) convergent evolution of morphological characters, and (d) ice fragmentation that doubtless triggered speciation through the Pleistocene.”

The outcomes have been revealed this week within the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.


Krzysztof Zawierucha et al. Two New Tardigrade Genera from New Zealand’s Southern Alp Glaciers Show Morphological Stasis and Parallel Evolution. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, revealed on-line October 5, 2022; doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2022.107634

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