Why ‘immortal’ creatures can live for decades without drinking water?

Water is an important ingredient for all life on Earth. However, creatures with nearly “immortal” powers like water bears (scientific name is )


) then how can they survive in the absence of water for many years?

According to the scientists, many of the 1,300 species of water bears have been known to withstand conditions that are fatal to all other life forms, such as starvation, boiling, freezing, exposure to heat. firing or even firing from the barrel of a gun.

Biologist Takekazu Kunieda at the University of Tokyo (Japan) said: “Although water is essential for all life as we know it, some species of water bears can live without water for decades.” .

Why immortal creatures can live for decades without drinking water | Discover

Scientists have found why water bears can survive for decades without water. Photo: NatGeo

According to Takekazu Kunieda, biologist Akihiro Tanaka and colleagues at the University of Tokyo explain that water bears are especially stable after dehydration and can even withstand the vacuum of space and still be able to regenerate themselves. born.

Experts say that, when dehydrated, certain proteins must help cells maintain physical strength and endurance to avoid self-destruction. Therefore, the team set out to look at a family of water bears known for their ability to dehydrate called eutardigrades. The study aimed to find a protein that could explain the organism’s properties and discovered 336 potential proteins.

Takekazu Kunieda shared, after testing several different types, the team found that the protein containing many heat soluble cytoplasm (CAHS) is only found in water bears. This protein is responsible for protecting their cells against dehydration.

Using experiments in human and insect cells, the researchers were able to demonstrate that the CAHS protein increases cell stiffness, while immobilizing cells against stress-induced shrinkage. dehydration. This protein even protects cells from the stress caused by too much water.

Understanding how the CAHS protein functions in human and insect cells presents some interesting challenges.

Biologist Tanaka said: “The conventional method requires a solvent containing water. So we turned to a methanol-based solvent solution to solve this problem.”

This solution allows experts to see CAHS proteins in action in cells grown in the lab.

The CAHS protein seems to act as a scaffold, similar to a cell skeleton, but only when the cells are exposed to dehydration stress. Specifically, in dehydrated cells, CAHS proteins will bind together to form a spider web of supporting fibers.

This special structure helps to protect cells from being completely deformed by the stress of dehydration, and may contribute to the amazing stability of the cocoon form that water bears produce when they are exposed to a water-deficient environment. .

This process, known as anhydrobiosis, can be reversed, allowing the water bear to respawn when exposed to water.

Biologist Kynieda says everything about water bears is fascinating. The range of extreme environments in which some species can survive leads us to explore previously unseen mechanisms and structures.

Other unique proteins that the researchers have isolated may hold more clues to the water bears’ impressive and unexpected abilities.

Special research on water bears published in the journal PLOS Biology.

Even when shot from a gun, the water bear is still alive

Lovely water bears, famous for being strong as they can even survive even in a vacuum or extraterrestrial environment. But can this animal survive being shot by a gun?

Why immortal creatures can live for decades without drinking water | Discover

Water bears are considered ‘immortal’ creatures when they can survive in many harsh environments. Photo: Businessinsider

The study by the University of Kent (UK) was published in the journal Astrobiology in May 2021 discovered that water bears can survive being shot from the barrel of a gun, but they also have a breaking point.

Accordingly, two scientists Alejandra Traspas and Mark Burchell describe the experiments they conducted, which involved shooting small boxes containing water bears at high speed at a target made of sand to see if the creature Can this survive under that pressure?

Specifically, after collecting about 20 water bear specimens, the team put them in a deep cold environment so that they entered a state of hibernation.

Then, experts divide them into groups of 2-3 animals and place them in a thin box filled with water. The team placed these boxes inside a larger cylindrical box that acts like the cartridge case of a specialized two-stage gun.

This is a tool placed in a vacuum chamber, operating at various speeds and aiming with sand a few meters away.

After conducting tests, the researchers found that water bears shot from the barrel of a gun at a speed of 825 m / s can wake up after being removed from the container. Meanwhile, the water bears that were fired at higher speeds could not survive.

From this result, the team of researchers speculated that water bears could not survive a collision with a planet if they were attached to a meteorite. Because this collision usually happens at speeds that exceed the tolerance of water bears.

Water bears are small animals with 8 legs and a length of about 0.1 cm, usually living in the water. Water bears are famous for being small but durable animals that can still live even when they are boiled, frozen, exposed to radiation, dried…

This is also the first animal to survive in space. In order to be “immortal” and survive even in the harshest habitats,

Water bears often curl up into a sphere and enter a state that resembles hibernation.

So, do water bears have a weakness?

The answer is yes. Moreover, the weakness of this immortal animal surprised many people.

Specifically, in a study published in Scientific Reports In April 2022, scientists at Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland, said they had found the weak point of water bears. That is

snail slime


Although water bears have a very strong ability to live, they move very slowly. Water bears even move slower than snails.

Why immortal creatures can live for decades without drinking water | Discover

Scientists discovered that snail mucus is the weak point of water bears. Photo: Shutterstock

Associate Professor Zofia Książkiewicz-Parulska and Dr. Milena Roszkowska from the Institute of Environmental Biology, Adam Mickiewicz University had snails crawl across the surface of the water bears there. After that, the water bears immediately attached to the snail to hitchhike.

In particular, experts also discovered that after clinging to a snail and being covered by the snail’s mucus, the water bear quickly dries up. Even after rehydration, only 34% of the water bears survived.

This test shows that snail mucus is a weak point, but also a way for water bears to travel further.

According to experts, the rate of water bears dying from snail mucus does not affect the number of this animal. Because only one survives, the water bear can still establish another population in a new environment, thanks to its ability to reproduce asexually.

Accidentally finding the weak point of the water bear, a creature with very good survivability, will help open up new research directions on the survivability of this particular animal, and the effects of snail mucus in other biochemical applications.

Source referenced article: Livescience, Sciencealert, Dailymail

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