Cryptobiosis and environmental stress tolerance in tardigrades

Hovedområde:Comparative Physiology
Målgruppe:Biology, Molecular Biomedicine, Biochemistry
Niveau:Bachelor, Masters

Tardigrades or water bears [in Danish: Bjørnedyr] are microscopic animals living in a range of habitats across the globe. These small animals are famous for their ability to survive extreme conditions, such as desiccation, freezing, large variations in external salt concentrations, oxygen depletion over extended periods, as well as journeys outside Earth’s protective atmosphere. Tardigrades can respond to extreme conditions by entering a state of latent life called cryptobiosis, in which metabolism is believed to have come to a reversible standstill. Even in their active states tardigrades may be extremely tolerant to environmental stress, handling extreme levels of ionizing radiation, large fluctuations in external salinity and avoiding freezing by supercooling. 

The anatomical, physiological and molecular mechanisms underlying this amazing ability to adapt to extreme conditions are to date largely unresolved. 

A diverse number of projects are available involving e.g. experimental biology, advanced microscopy and genomics/transcriptomics: 

  • Investigations of tardigrade anatomy employing e.g. light microscopy, confocal laser scanning microscopy and electron microscopy. 
  • Experimental investigations of tolerance towards cellular and environmental toxins. 
  • Experimental investigations into the volume and osmoregulatory capacity of selected species. 
  • Investigations of diapause: cyst formation and cyclomorphosis. 
  • Evolution of tardigrades based on morphological and molecular data. 
  • Establishment of laboratory cultures of selected tardigrade species.
  • Identifying potential stress markers involved in cryptobiosis based on transcriptome datasets from selected species.
Keywords:Extreme environments, Cryptobiosis, Stress, Osmoregulation, Comparative biology
Vejleder(e): Nadja Møbjerg