Living organisms have come up with lots of interesting ways to get through tough times. Sometimes, “tough” means stuff like… winter. Other times, there might be a food shortage or the puddle dries up. Whatever the stressor, being adaptable is the key to survival. In this post, we’ll take a look at how 3 weird organisms survive tough times.
Rotifers and tardigrades react to crappy times by desiccation. They dehydrate their cells, their DNA fragments, and they roll up into a cocoon (aka: a tun). There’s a misconception that tardigrades can live in space, but no. Tardigrades are not extremophiles. They don’t live in harsh environments, they’re just able to survive them. Big difference.
Rotifers do the same thing as tardigrades. They’re able to roll up into a tun and survive hard times. What’s even weirder is that some rotifers are female-only. Bdelloid rotifers (under the class Bdelloidea) have been reproducing asexually for millions of years. Their genome does not have the mechanisms for meiosis. They create genetic diversity by accumulating mutations separately on their chromosomes and stealing DNA from other organisms.
Rana sylvatica is a species of wood frogs that freezes into a solid chunk of ice in the winter time. They pump their cells full of glucose, which acts as an anti-freeze. Why is this necessary? Because water expands when it freezes, bursting cells and thus, killing the organisms. With the increase in glucose, the frogs also increase anti-oxidants in their cells to help them combat all the reactive oxygen species building up throughout the winter.
Humans and Tough Times
We don’t have cool abilities to tun up or freeze up, but humans have one advantage: our big, giant brains. With it, we figured out how to make clothes and shelter. Just how important is our brain? Well, we’re mostly hairless, clawless, fangless, and hornless. Yet somehow, we’ve managed to expand our human settlements to every corner of the Earth. Oh, and drive most animals to extinction (or the brink of).