Cyclomorphosis in Tardigrada: adaptation to environmental constraints

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Tardigrades exhibit a remarkable resilience against environmental extremes. In the present study, we investigate mechanisms of survival and physiological adaptations associated with sub-zero temperatures and severe osmotic stress in two commonly found cyclomorphic stages of the marine eutardigrade Halobiotus crispae. Our results show that only animals in the so-called pseudosimplex 1 stage are freeze tolerant. In pseudosimplex 1, as well as active-stage animals kept at a salinity of 20 ppt, ice formation proceeds rapidly at a crystallization temperature of around -20 degrees C, revealing extensive supercooling in both stages, while excluding the presence of physiologically relevant ice-nucleating agents. Experiments on osmotic stress tolerance show that the active stage tolerates the largest range of salinities. Changes in body volume and hemolymph osmolality of active-stage specimens (350-500 microm) were measured following salinity transfers from 20 ppt. Hemolymph osmolality at 20 ppt was approximately 950 mOsm kg(-1). Exposure to hypo-osmotic stress in 2 and 10 ppt caused (1) rapid swelling followed by a regulatory volume decrease, with body volume reaching control levels after 48 h and (2) decrease in hemolymph osmolality followed by a stabilization at significantly lower osmolalities. Exposure to hyperosmotic stress in 40 ppt caused (1) rapid volume reduction, followed by a regulatory increase, but with a new steady-state after 24 h below control values and (2) significant increase in hemolymph osmolality. At any investigated external salinity, active-stage H. crispae hyper-regulate, indicating a high water turnover and excretion of dilute urine. This is likely a general feature of eutardigrades.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number17
Pages (from-to)2803-11
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Keywords: Acclimatization; Animals; Invertebrates; Microscopy, Electron, Scanning; Osmolar Concentration; Osmotic Pressure; Temperature; Water-Electrolyte Balance

ID: 17008905