A new species of tardigrade discovered in a Japanese car park

A team of researchers recently reported the discovery in a Japanese car park of a brand new species of tardigrade, the strangest and most resistant organisms on the planet.

As you may know, the tardigrades are more resilient than ever: they are able to live in the depths of the ocean, to starve for years and even to survive the cold of space, at temperatures close to absolute zero. But not all species are adept at extreme conditions and some prefer an environment, say more comfortable. This is how scientists discovered a new species living in moss on the concrete surface of a Japanese car park.

The eggs of the new species of tardigrade, Macrobiotus shonaicus. Credit: Daniel Stec et al

In the end, it’s not surprising, tardigrades usually live in mosses, lichens and dead leaves. Kazuharu Arakawa, a bioscientist from Keio University (Tokyo), who rented an apartment in Tsuruoka town – above the car park – was therefore not surprised to find it in a foam sample taken from concrete. On the other hand, he did not expect it to be a new species. With his team, they used Phase Contrast Photon Microscopy (PCM) and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) as well as the DNA of 4 molecular markers to characterize the new species – Macrobiotus shonaicus – and determine its place in the phylogenetic tree.

What differentiates M. shonaicus are its eggs, which have a solid surface and flexible outward-extending filaments, similar to those of two other recently described species, M. paulinae from Arica and M. polypiformis, present in South America.

M. shonaicus is the 168th late species identified in Japan – among more than 1,200 recognized species.

Paige Driessen

Paige is an Arizona native who loves the outdoor life. She writes about a wide range of topics for The Talking Democrat