New Tardigrade Species Found in Parking Lot in Japan

New Tardigrade Species Found in Parking Lot in Japan

More than 1,100 species of tardigrades-also known as "waterbears" and "moss piglets"-have been described around the world". They can even live through starvation for up to 30 years.

"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 Live Science in an email. The M. shonaicus species is known for a bulging layer on the internal surface of some of its legs. "But Macrobiotus species, such as [the new species] M. shonaicus, often have two sexes, and require mating", said co-author of the study Dr. Kazuharu Arakawa from Keio University, Japan.

Poking about under a small rock picked up in a Japanese vehicle park - not the most glamorous of activities - has paid a dividend for scientists who discovered a brand new species of tardigrade.

Called M. shonaicus after the Shōnai region of Japan where it was found, the latest tardigrade was discovered on a clunk of moss growing in a concrete vehicle park, outside the flat of university researcher Kazuharu Arakawa, in Tsuruoka City.

Tardigrades are short, plump, eight-legged micro-animals measuring around 0.02 inches long.

The scientists also employed phase contrast light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy during this process. The research was published on February 28, 2018 in the open access journal PLOS One.

My, what unusual teeth you have.

When comparing the new tardigrade to similar species such as M. anemone, M. naskreckii, and M. patagonicus, the researchers noted differences in their visual organs, mouth, spotting, leg shape, and other features.

In order to differentiate between the different species the researchers were studying, the scientists examined the tardigrades' eggs.

M. shonaicus's eggs have a solid surface, indicating that the little waterbear belongs to a sub-group of tardigrades known as hufelandi. But the eggs also have flexible filaments attached to their tops, which is similar to the eggs produced by two recently discovered tardigrade species, Macrobiotus paulinae from Africa and Macrobiotus polypiformis from South America.

Researchers confirmed that the new species contains a combination of characteristics from other species and it is likely descended from an ancient element.

The chunky critter has been dubbed Macrobiotus shonaicus because it was found in the Shōnai region of Japan, and it is the 168th species of tardigrade discovered in the country.

These protrusions mean the new species is part of the hufelandi group of tardigrades.

The tardigrade's ability to withstand freezing temperatures could help scientists create freeze-dried vaccines. The dehydration resistance of water bears could help inform scientists on how to preserve biological material, like cells, crops, and meats.

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