Thursday, 8 April 2010

(Tiny) Anaerobic animals discovered!

This really is completely unexpected: researchers from Italy dredged up some sediment from deep parts of the Mediterranean Ocean where the waters are completely anoxic and found multicellular animals living there. (Click the picture to visit the BBC report on this.)

The sediments of a deep-sea hypersaline and sulfidic Mediterranean basin have yielded an unexpected discovery, the first multicellular animals living entirely without oxygen.
Until then, they'd thought only bacteria, viruses and archaea could survive without oxygen, and although the bodies of these animals had been found in the sediments, they'd always been dead, so had been assumed to have died and sunk to the bottom.
Loricifera are small (< 1mm), exclusively marine meiofauna that belong to a relatively recently described marine phylum.
<Aside> Meiofauna are bigger than microfauna and smaller then megafauna. Aren't you glad you asked?</Aside>

On the other hand, at less than a millimetre across, these beasties are pretty tiny; there are single-celled animals bigger than that!

You can read a summary on Biology News Net or download the pdf from BMC Biology.

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