A new species of tardigrade has been discovered: it is a fossil with a high level of conservation, unique in its category
When a “bug” is NASA’s recurring resource to send into space, it is because it has something special. In the case of tardigrades, their fame (and usefulness) is due to its incredible resistance, with a DNA that can endure in the face of radiation, and it seems that the family grows.
Now scientists have discovered a new species of tardigrade, as published in The Royal Society. Of course, it is not one or more living individuals, but a fossil inside a piece of amber, the purest ‘Jurassic Park’ style.
The (phylogenetic) family grows
We recently talked about the advantages that amber has as a preservative medium for fossils, due to the possibility that DNA up to 125 million years old has been found in tissues such as cartilage. In this case it is a specimen wrapped in amber found in La Cumbre (Dominican Republic), where, as explained in NPR, there are amber deposits that come to characterize the mine.
It is the first Cenozoic tardigrade fossil ever found, the era that extends from 66 million years ago to the present. With it they reconstruct something else the still very empty puzzle of the origin of the tardigrades, after previous fossils dating from the Cretaceous (a period before the Cenozoic era, in which there were still dinosaurs).
The age of this fossil: 16 million years, nothing bad. In the images it can be seen that its conservation is quite high (according to the New Jersey Institute of Technology, the best preserved fossil to date) taking into account its antiquity, coining with it the new species Paradoryphoribius chronocaribbeus. which as explained is the first fossil (unambiguous) of the superfamily Isohypsibioidea, although the taxonomy of tardigrades in general is still under debate and there are several currents.
Thanks to this high level of conservation, the researchers have even been able to observe microstructures like the mouth or the claws. A part that characterizes the superfamily and that, as specified, are between 20 and 30 times thinner than a human hair.
The “charismatic microscopic invertebrate,” as scientists refer to the species in their study, will stay at the American Museum of Natural History. Phil Barden, head of the research, speaks of “phantom lineage” when speaking of the tardigrade, hence they consider that the discovery of this new species (and of that antiquity) helps to unravel something more than a phylogenetic tree which at the moment seems to be an activity to be completed like those of Biology at the institute.
We will see if it helps to give more clues about the roots of these little ones that attract so much attention to many (we would set up our own farm), either because of their shape, because of their displacement or because of their crazy qualities, although we already said that they are something like that. like the Windows Vista of microbiology. In the meantime, we’ve already gotten them to be aliens.