Scientists Discover Animals That Can Live Without Oxygen

By Meera Dolasia on April 10, 2010

Barring a few known species of single-celled bacteria, scientists have maintained that all living organisms need oxygen to survive. Now, some marine biologists believe that they may have discovered a species of metazoa or multi-celled animals, that can survive without O2!

The three species of Loricifera, were discovered by a team of Italian researchers in the marsh sediments of the L'Atlante basin in the Mediterranean Sea. Considered to be one of the harshest and most extreme environments on Earth, the area, which lies 10,000 feet below the surface, is comprised of salt brines so dense that it does not mix with the oxygen-containing waters. While the researchers have known and pulled some single-celled organisms from the region during prior expeditions, this is the first evidence of a living multi-cell organism surviving in an anoxic or oxygen-free environment.

The sub-millimeter long animals that resemble tiny cups with tentacles sticking out, are similar to mud dragons, except that they lack mitochondria, the cellular structures responsible for converting sugar and oxygen into energy. Instead, their cells are rich in hydrogenosomes, structures that can do a similar job in an oxygen-free environment.

While the researchers do not know how these little creatures evolved to survive in such a harsh environment, they provide a great insight into what the environment under the Earth's ocean used to be like, about 600 million years ago, when the ocean waters did not contain oxygen and, the creatures were much smaller.

The expedition that found these fascinating creatures, is the third one carried out in the last 10 years to look for living organisms in this salty basin, that lays 200km from the Greek Island of Crete.


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  • nikukyu
    nikukyuMonday, November 24, 2014 at 11:53 pm
    Woah awesome!
    • abbyTuesday, November 11, 2014 at 4:02 pm
      • linkWednesday, October 22, 2014 at 2:04 pm
        long live the land of hylia and the triforce
        • thediamandhorseMonday, October 20, 2014 at 3:39 pm
          • notanaveragekid
            notanaveragekidSaturday, October 18, 2014 at 8:46 am
            Kind of creepy not breathing, but cool!
            • coolzies1
              coolzies1Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 3:20 pm
              • My name is tacoMonday, October 13, 2014 at 4:36 pm
                What is the name of the organism?
                • PooTuesday, October 7, 2014 at 5:46 pm
                  • browser
                    browserTuesday, October 7, 2014 at 2:12 pm
                    Amazing prokaryotes.
                    • Animal loverMonday, October 6, 2014 at 12:57 pm
                      So cool!


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