Children’s news article about snail slime

Microscopic tardigrades can survive in the most extreme environments (Credit: Schokraie E, Warnken U, Hotz-Wagenblatt A, Grohme MA, Hengherr S, et al. (2012), CC BY 2.5 /Wikimedia Commons)

Tardigrades are perhaps the most resilient creatures on Earth. Commonly known as water bears or moss piglets, they can blossom in the most extreme conditions – from the tops of mountains to the bottom of the oceans, to the empty from space. Now researchers have finally found the one thing that can kill each other indestructible microscopic organisms — snail slime.

Zofia Ksiazkiewicz and Milena Roszkowska from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland fell on the tardigrades. Nemesis while trying to figure out how the tiny creatures got to new areas. Their addiction on wind currents and waterways is well known. But biologists suspected the tardigrades might also be hitchhiking on land snails since the two frequently live together in the same habitats. Additionally, the slime, or mucus, that helps keep the snails’ bodies from drying out offers the perfect solution. environment necessary to keep tardigrades active.

Grove snails transport tardigrades to new environments. (Zofia Ksiazkiewicz and Milena Roszkowska)

To test their theory, the researchers collected some specimens grove snails and Milnesium inceptum tardigrades, which coexist in Western European ecosystems. Snails were allowed to crawl through water droplets and more tufts of moss containing tardigrades. The molluscs picked up 38 tardigrades in water and 12 in foam. Researchers speculate that snails can be a better means of transport for organisms than wind or water currents. This is because they are more likely to carry tardigrades to a hospital environment.

However, free rides are not without Danger. In a separate space experienceresearchers had snails crawl on Tardigrades in the tun state. A state of tun occurs when the bodies of tardigrades dry out and appear as lifeless balls. This aptitude allows microscopic creatures to resist extreme conditions.

The tardigrade species, Milnesium inceptum, used in the experiments; the inset shows the tardigrade in barrel condition (Image credit: Zofia Książkiewicz and Milena Roszkowska)

Tardigrades attached to snails were rehydrated and observed for signs of life. Ninety-eight percent of tardigrades that had not been exposed to snail mucus survived. However, only 34 percent of those who came into contact with the vase could be revived. The Polish biologists, who published their findings in the journal Scientific reports on April 14, 2022, I think it’s because the tardigrades came back to life when they came into contact with the watery mucus. But they were unable to return to their dehydrated state, or tun, before it dried around them.

“It is suspected that the mucus dried up too quickly and that the tardigrades undergoing rehydration could not respond quickly enough to the drying microenvironment,” the scientists explained. “As a result, it was difficult to form proper rolls again in such a short time.

The mighty tardigrade may be able to survive some of the toughest conditions on the planet, but it would be wise of them to stay mistrustful of the dangers of traveling by snail!