THE END IS NIGH. THE END IS FUCKING NIGH.
"The water flea, or Daphnia pulex, is the first crustacean to have its genome sequenced. An international network of researchers report their findings in the journal Science. Among the highlights is identification of genes shared by Daphnia and unrelated aquatic vertebrates—and therefore likely key for living life in water.
Daphnia have the largest inventory of genes ever recorded for a sequenced animal, packaged within a tiny genome of only 200 million bases. The genome is made compact by the reduction in size of spaces (introns) between the gene parts that code for proteins.
“Daphnia’s high gene number is largely because its genes are multiplying, by creating copies at a higher rate than other species,” says project leader John Colbourne, who directs the Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics at Indiana University. “We estimate a rate that is three times greater than those of other invertebrates and 30 percent greater than that of humans.”
Scientists have studied Daphnia for centuries because of its importance in aquatic food webs and for its transformational responses to environmental stress. Predators signal some of the animals to produce exaggerated spines, neck-teeth or helmets in self-defense.
And like the virgin nymph of Greek mythology that shares its name, Daphnia thrives in the absence of males—by clonal reproduction, until harsh environmental conditions favor the benefits of sex.
“We were surprised to find the incredibly high level of complexity of the set of Daphnia vision genes,” says co-author Todd Oakley, an associate professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Oakley’s team focused on vision genes in the tiny creature.
“While humans have four light-sensing proteins (opsins), the Daphnia genome has 46 opsins,” says Oakley. “A possible explanation for this complexity is that Daphnia use these genes to understand the complex light regime of their aquatic environment.”
No ordinary genome
“More than one-third of Daphnia’s genes are undocumented in any other organism—in other words, they are completely new to science,” says Don Gilbert, coauthor and biologist at Indiana University.
Sequenced genomes often contain some fraction of genes with unknown functions, even among the most well-studied genetic model species for biomedical research, such as the fruit fly Drosophila.
By using microarrays (containing millions of DNA strands affixed to microscope slides) that are made to measure the conditions under which these new genes are transcribed into precursors for proteins, experiments that subjected Daphnia to environmental stressors point to these unknown genes having ecologically significant functions.
“If such large fractions of genomes evolved to cope with environmental challenges, information from traditional model species used only in laboratory studies may be insufficient to discover the roles for a considerable number of animal genes,” Colbourne says.
Daphnia is emerging as a model organism for a new field of science—environmental genomics—that aims to better understand how the environment and genes interact. This includes a practical need to apply scientific developments from this field toward managing our water resources and protecting human health from chemical pollutants in the environment.
James Klaunig, a professor and chair of the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation’s Department of Environmental Health at Indiana, predicts the present work will yield a more realistic and scientifically based risk evaluation.
“Genome research on the responses of animals to stress has important implications for assessing environmental risks to humans,” Klaunig says. “The Daphnia system is an exquisite aquatic sensor, a potential high-tech and modern version of the mineshaft canary. With knowledge of its genome, and using both field sampling and laboratory studies, the possible effects of environmental agents on cellular and molecular processes can be resolved and linked to similar processes in humans.”
The scientists learned that of all sequenced invertebrate genomes so far, Daphnia shares the most genes with humans.
The idea behind environmental genomics for risk assessment is fairly simple. Daphnia’s gene expression patterns change depending on its environment, and the patterns indicate what state its cells are in.
A water flea bobbing in water containing a chemical pollutant will express by tuning-up or tuning-down a suite of genes differently than its clonal sisters accustomed to water without the pollutant. Importantly, the health effects of most industrially produced compounds at relevant concentrations and mixtures in the environment are unknown, because current testing procedures are too slow, too costly, and unable to indicate the causes for their effects on animals, including human.
The new findings suggest that Daphnia’s research tools (like microarrays) and genome information can provide a higher-throughput and information-rich method of measuring the condition of our water supply.
“Until now, Daphnia has primarily been used as sentinel species for monitoring the integrity of aquatic ecosystems,” says Joseph Shaw, coauthor and Indiana University biologist. “But with many shared genes between Daphnia and humans, we will now also apply Daphnia as a surrogate model to address issues directly related to human health.
“This puts us in a position to begin integrating studies of environmental quality with research of human diseases.”
This work was supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, Lilly Endowment Inc., Roche NimbleGen Inc., the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Indiana University.
Over the course of the project, the Daphnia Genomics Consortium has grown from a handful of founding members to more than 450 investigators distributed around the globe. Nearly 200 scientists have contributed published work resulting from the genome study, many in open-source journals published as a thematic series by BioMedCentral.” Taken from http://www.futurity.org/top-stories/water-fleas-31000-genes-top-humans/
THIS IS REAL NOT PHOTOSHOPPED OK IT LOOKS LIKE A DEDGUM MUPPET
BLUE BOTTLE FLY MAGGOT or Calliphora vomitoria
"The life cycle of the Blue Bottle Fly is common among other bottle flies. Blue Bottles reproduce sexually. Their life cycle pertains of an egg, larva, pupa and adult. The first stage is the egg. The Blue Bottle Fly egg has the appearance of a slim, light yellow or pale gray, grain of rice. The female fly will lay up to 180 eggs on suitable food materials such as a carcass or rotting flesh. In two or three days, the fly eggs will hatch. The larva has the appearance of the common house fly larva. A white or yellowish worm or caterpillar looking animal now takes the stage. The blue bottle fly larva is called a maggot. The main purpose of the maggot is to feed and grow. This stage lasts approximately 2 to 10 days. After this, the maggot will find a dry safe spot to pupate. Then a hardy cocoon is formed around the larva, changing the pupa into an adult. The pupa will take an unusually long time in its cocoon. It takes about 2 weeks to emerge. The now adult Blue Bottle Fly is 1/4-inch to 3/8-inches in size. It looks similar to the average housefly but is distinguished by its bright metallic blue color. Within 2 weeks, the new adult will be sexually mature and the process will repeat." Taken from http://creationwiki.org/Blue_bottle_fly
TARDIGRADE or Hypsibius dujardin Also commonly known as the ‘water bear’.
IT CAN SMELL YOU AND SEE YOU WITH ITS SINGLE ORIFICE. But not really.
"Tardigrades are well known to many microscopists but few people are aware of their fascinating biology. Characterised by their short bodies (typically 0.5mm long) with eight legs terminating in claws, they were for many years classified with the spiders and mites before it was recognised that their unique biology merited their own phylum, Tardigrada. They are widely distributed from the tropics to the polar regions and occur in a wide variety of habitats including mosses, lichen, soils, sands, leaf litter, marine sediments and for some marine species, in association with marine molluscs. Many of the terrestrial species are able to withstand long periods of desiccation by a process known as anhydrobiosis (“life without water”). The tardigrade forms a dried, resistant state called a tun and can survive for many years without water. When rain arrives, the tun rehydrates and the tardigrade is active again within a few hours. It has been known for tardigrades to survive for over 100 years in this dehydrated form. In addition to resistance to drying, the tun state can also be frozen in the laboratory to -2700 C without killing the animal. This ability is of great survival importance to the tardigrade in times of drought and for some species regular cycles of drying and wetting may help prevent fungal infection of the tardigrade.
In many ways, tardigrades are an ideal subject for the amateur microscopist to study; they are very widespread and can be collected from the nearest garden, roof or gutter, only simple equipment is needed to extract them from their habitat and mounts can be made easily. There are probably fewer than 50 people world-wide working on tardigrades so there is good scope for the amateur to make a real contribution to our knowledge of these creatures. In order to start looking at tardigrades, simply collect some moss from a pavement or roof (the flat Bryum or Ceratodon species are ideal), soak it in tap water for several hours and then squeeze the water out into a transparent dish. Tardigrades can be found at low magnification (a stereomicroscope magnifying x20 is ideal) and can be recognised by their slug-like appearance and active legs. It is from their characteristic bear-like gait that they are given their common name, Water Bears. Examine specimens in a drop of water under a coverslip at x100 to x400, or make permanent mounts for future identification using a water based mountant such as NBS Aqueous Mountant.
For further information on tardigrades, refer to The Biology of Tardigrades by Ian Kinchin (1994, Portland Press). A copy is available for loan to members in the Quekett Lending Library. The Club journal also has several papers published in the last 10 years on tardigrades.”-taken from http://www.nhm.ac.uk/hosted_sites/quekett/tardi.htm
A year ago, 3,000 of them were dried out and fired into space to see if they could handle the cosmic rays, a near vacuum and freezing cold.
Amazingly, after ten days, some of them did. They became the first animals to survive exposure in space without protection.
The experiment, supported by the European Space Agency, was headed by Dr Ingemar Jonsson, of the University of Kristianstad, Sweden.
'Our principal finding is that the space vacuum, which entails extreme dehydration, and cosmic radiation were not a problem for water bears,' he said. But admitted that exactly how they survived 'remains a mystery.'
The water bears were kept in a chamber on board the FOTON-M3 spacecraft as it orbited 270km above the Earth 270km.
A slide was opened to expose them to the vacuum and the cold. Some were also subjected to the Sun’s UV rays which are 1,000 times stronger in space than on Earth and, incredibly, survived for the return trip. They continued to breed successfully.
Dr Jonsson and his colleagues in Stockholm, Stuttgart, and Cologne published the results of the space study in the journal Current Biology.
He said, ‘The ultraviolet radiation in space is harmful to water bears, although a few individuals can survive even that.’
He believes that even if they suffered DNA damage, the little water bears could somehow repair it. The next challenge is to try to understand the creatures’ ‘exceptional tolerance’ to extreme conditions, he said. It could help scientists learn how to treat cancer.
'All knowledge involving the repair of genetic damage is central to the field of medicine,' Dr Jonsson said.
'One problem with radiation therapy in treating cancer today is that healthy cells are also harmed. If we can document and show that there are special molecules involved in DNA repair in multicellular animals like tardigrades, we might be able to further the development of radiation therapy,' he added.
German scientist Dr Ralph Schill, who also worked on the project, said, ‘I hoped they would make it but I could hardly have expected this result - you can’t simulate some of the space conditions in the lab’.
Water bears exist in nearly all ecosystems of the world. What makes them unique is that they can survive repeated dehydration and can lose nearly all the water they have in their bodies.
When dehydrated, they enter into a dormant state in which the body contracts and metabolism ceases. In this death-like dormant state, water bears manage to maintain the structures in their cells until water is available to ‘reactivate’ them.
In 1998, Japanese scientists subjected the creatures to pressures up to 6,000 greater than our atmosphere. They lived. In tests, they have also survived X-rays and being frozen to just above absolute zero - that’s minus 273.15C, the coldest temperature possible.
'No animal has survived open space before,' says developmental biologist Bob Goldstein of the University of North Carolina.
'The finding that animals survived rehydration after days in open space - and then produced viable embryos as well - is really remarkable.'”-taken from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1054351/Tiny-water-bears-creatures-survive-space.html
HYDROTHERMAL WORM or Tube worm, Riftia pachyptila
"When it was first discovered in the 1970s, living in great clusters in the deep sea around hydrothermal vents, the giant tube worm caused a sensation. It has many structural similarities to pogonophoran worms, but is huge. Like them, the giant tube worm lives in a permanent tube and has no mouth or gut. Most of the worm’s body remains hidden but a brilliant red plume of gills sticks up out of the tube and absorbs chemicals and oxygen from the water. Living within the giant tube worm’s tissues are bacteria that can make up over half the weight of the body.
Giant tube worms obtain all their energy from chemicals in the hot water that pours out of hydrothermal vents. Chemosynthetic bacteria in their tissues oxidize sulfur to provide energy and fix carbon from vent chemicals. The giant tube worms thus gain their food with no direct or indirect reliance on sunlight.”-Taken from http://oceana.org/en/explore/marine-wildlife/giant-tube-worm
ICE WORM, genus Mesenchytraeus
"Contrary to what many people say, iceworms do, in fact, exist! However, they do not give the glacier ice its blue color, nor do they grow to lengths of 50 feet (both of these false statements were made popular by poet Robert Service and the annual Cordova Ice Worm Festival).
A member of the segmented worms, the annelids, iceworms are related to common earthworms and leeches. The iceworm (Mesenchytraeus solifugus) is a small, slim worm, one to three centimeters long, and dark brown or black in color. It resembles a miniature earthworm.
Surprising as it seems, iceworms live quite successfully in glaciers and adjacent perennial snowfields all year, surviving and thriving at temperatures around 32 degrees Fahrenheit, zero degrees Celsius. This might seem impossible, but actually the tissue in animal cells does not freeze at the same temperature water does, but at a few degrees lower. Most animals would die long before reaching this temperature. The iceworm has adapted to cold temperatures and functions best at zero degrees Celsius. The summer temperature of the glacier ice and slush usually stays at about zero Celsius. In winter, due to some unique physical properties of water, and the snow’s insulating qualities, the glacier temperature probably never falls below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, except at the surface. Therefore, the iceworm may never be confronted with freezing to death because he penetrates deep into the glacier’s depth. On the other hand, higher temperatures are harmful to iceworms. When heated to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the worms melt and die.
The Latin name given the iceworm species gives a clue to its habits. Solifugus, or “sun-avoider” appropriately describes this worm that hides deep in the ice and snow during bright sunny days, emerging as dusk progresses to feed. Scientists believe that iceworms feed on snow algae, pollen grains, ice and snow. In turn, iceworms are preyed upon by snow buntings and other birds. Though commonly found in the more porous snow, even when they are found in “solid ice”, the iceworms seem to move with ease. It has been theorized that they crawl around the ice crystals that make up the glacier.”-Taken from http://www.alaskacenters.gov/ice-worms.cfm