Nature seems to have endless possibilities. The media these days is speaking so much about finding life on other planets, but even here on Earth there still are many forms of life that developed in very surprising ways for us. So surprising that if we encounter an alien life form on Earth, some may even say that it’s not from another planet.
Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have recently discovered eight more species of microscopic worm thriving in Mono Lake in California, and one of them is weird beyond imagination. The funny thing is that typically, the super-salty waters of the lake are inhabitable for most life forms.
The great discovery is the Auanema sp. worm
The team of researchers reports that Auanema sp. worm is one of the species of nematode and it has some out of this world characteristics. It has three sexes and it can survive a dose of arsenic hundreds of times better than humans.
While nematode species usually have only two sexes, males and hermaphrodites, the Auanema sp. has also female characteristics. The researchers note “the arrangement of genital papillae in Auanema sp. males is unique in the genus.”. The worm can even give birth to offspring, which also differs from the usual nematode species since it generally reproduces through eggs.
Why arsenic tolerance?
A curious thing was that the Auanema sp. didn’t live in environments with high arsenic levels. There had to be another reason for the astonishing tolerance.
“Previous Auanema species were isolated from rich soils and dung, which can contain high concentrations of phosphate,” said one of the members of the study.
“Since arsenic uptake occurs adventitiously via phosphate transporters, it is conceivable that adaptation to high levels of phosphate in the environment could lead to increased arsenic resistance as well.”
The discovery was published in Current Biology.