Multicellular Organisms Found In Oxygen-Free Environment

Multicellular Organisms Found In Oxygen-Free Environment

Postby Sionnach Glic » Fri Apr 09, 2010 9:34 am

Well this is certainly a first!

Species name: Not yet assigned, but of the phylum Loricifera, genus Spinoloricus

Habitat: Deep sediments lacking oxygen in the L'Atalante basin of the Mediterranean Sea south of Greece - and who knows where else

This tiny creature may not look spectacular, but it is one of the most remarkable ever discovered: the first that can survive and reproduce entirely without oxygen.

As well as proving that animals that don't have to breathe oxygen have already evolved on Earth, it bolsters claims that complex animals can evolve on other planets even if there's no oxygen. Some have speculated, for example, that sulphur-rich areas of Mars might support life.

On Earth, bacteria, viruses and ancient archaea that survive without oxygen are well-known, but they are simple, single-celled organisms. What marks out the new animal is that it has millions of cells and functions independently.

Toxic depths
Roberto Danovaro of the Polytechnic University of Marche, Ancona, Italy, led the team that discovered the creature, plus two others that live an oxygen-free existence, in sediments buried deep beneath the Mediterranean Sea. They've identified the creatures as loriciferans, tiny sediment-dwelling creatures so named from Greek because their abdomens resemble girdles.

Assigned the genus Spinoloricus, the animal is less than a millimetre long. The other two new loriciferan species Danovaro found resemble water fleas, one given the genus name Rugiloricus and the other Pliciloricus. Some specimens contained an unfertilised egg.

The beasts live in conditions that would kill every other known animal. As well as lacking oxygen, the sediments are choked with salt and swamped with hydrogen sulphide gas.

Power supply
None of the animals has mitochondria, the "power stations" that generate energy from oxygen in the cells of all oxygen-using organisms. Instead, they rely on structures called hydrogenosomes, which generate energy from molecules other than oxygen, including hydrogen sulphide.

Hydrogenosomes are well known in protozoa that live in oxygen-free environments, but the three new creatures are the first animals to be found that rely completely on them. One possibility is that the loriciferans acquired the hydrogenosomes from protozoa.

Detailed light microscopy images reveal that its abdomen "girdle" consists of eight plates connected to form a cone, tipped with a honeycomb structure of unknown function.

Lisa Levin of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, says that the discoveries offer the tantalising promise that animal life will be found in other environments devoid of oxygen, including beyond our planet. Perhaps, she speculates, there are animals on other planets with atmospheres different from our own. More encouragement could come from further exploration of our own "inner space", the deep ocean.

Journal reference: BMC Biology, DOI: 10.1186/1741-7007-8-3



From here. This is the first time we've found a multicellular organism that can suvive in anaerobic conditions.
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Re: Multicellular Organisms Found In Oxygen-Free Environment

Postby stitch626 » Fri Apr 09, 2010 12:00 pm

Now begs the question: can it survive in oxygen?
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Re: Multicellular Organisms Found In Oxygen-Free Environment

Postby Tyyr » Fri Apr 09, 2010 1:25 pm

Oxygen is a corrosive poison. If it's developed to survive without oxygen then exposure won't likely do it any good.
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Re: Multicellular Organisms Found In Oxygen-Free Environment

Postby Monroe » Fri Apr 09, 2010 7:47 pm

I wonder where the term as Oxygen as a poison came from? Every other creature we know of needs it. Don't we need some kind of frame of reference to call something a poison? Sounds a bit like something said in science fiction :P Not really directed at you Tyyr as I've heard that said several times in the past.
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Re: Multicellular Organisms Found In Oxygen-Free Environment

Postby Tyyr » Fri Apr 09, 2010 8:25 pm

It's a horribly corrosive chemical and it was poisonous to the first life forms on Earth. The original photosynthetic life forms that inhabited the Earth were rat bastards that waged genocide on pretty much every other living thing.
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Re: Multicellular Organisms Found In Oxygen-Free Environment

Postby Monroe » Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:39 pm

Tyyr wrote:It's a horribly corrosive chemical and it was poisonous to the first life forms on Earth. The original photosynthetic life forms that inhabited the Earth were rat bastards that waged genocide on pretty much every other living thing.


Ah gotcha. I knew it was corrosive didn't know it could kill non-oxygen breathing or producing creatures.
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Re: Multicellular Organisms Found In Oxygen-Free Environment

Postby Mark » Sat Apr 10, 2010 12:17 am

Could this thing survive in a vacuum, I wonder.
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Re: Multicellular Organisms Found In Oxygen-Free Environment

Postby Tyyr » Sat Apr 10, 2010 1:41 pm

No, it needs hydrogen sulfide to survive. It still has to breath, just not oxygen.
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Re: Multicellular Organisms Found In Oxygen-Free Environment

Postby stitch626 » Sat Apr 10, 2010 4:27 pm

I wonder what its energy cycle would look like...
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