Study: Climate Change Could Threaten Tardigrades

Researchers find that a combination of high temperatures and UV radiation can have negative effects on these hardy creatures.

Diana Kwon
Diana Kwon

Diana is a freelance science journalist who covers the life sciences, health, and academic life. She’s a regular contributor to The Scientist and her work has appeared in several other...

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Dec 20, 2017

ISTOCK, ERAXIONTardigrades—microscopic animals that can survive extreme temperatures, years of dehydration, and even a trip to outer space—might not be able to withstand the combined effects of climate change, according to a study published last week (December 14) in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Scientists at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy examined how Acutuncus antarcticus, a tardigrade species native to the Antarctic, would react to climate change–associated stressors such as dehydration, high temperatures, and increased levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. While the organisms were able to cope with individual events, a combination of high temperatures and high radiation lowered their chances of survival. 

In addition, the researchers report that tardigrades born from UV-irradiated eggs took longer to reach sexual maturity and produced fewer eggs during their lifetime than those hatched from nonirradiated eggs.

It is not certain that UV radiation...