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They discovered tardigrades preserved in amber for 16 million years

The fossil, which survived five mass extinctions on Earth, could help reveal the secrets of tardigrades.

The tardigrades It has gained popularity in recent years thanks to its ability to survive the most extreme conditions, such as temperature extremes, radiation from space, and long-term water shortages.

When the environment becomes hostile, these extremists get busy and launch a process known as cryptobiosis, allowing them to reduce their metabolic processes and maintain a state of “advanced hibernation” that makes them virtually indestructible.

Although these abilities allowed them Survive five mass extinctions Continuing their legacy over the past 500 million years, the evolutionary path they have taken since then and the characteristics of ancient tardigrades remain a mystery.

Illustration: Holly Sullivan

However, a joint investigation between Harvard University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology found that a file Tardigrade fossil from 16 million years ago In amber from the Dominican Republic.

Because tardigrades lack time-tested minerals and their microscopic size, finding a fossil is an almost impossible task. This sample is The third found in history (Its first dates back to Cenozoic) and the best preserved to date.

With 559 µm Long (just over half a millimeter) long, analyzing tardigrades has proven an unprecedented challenge to scientists. Mark A. explains. Maballo, lead author of the study in release.

After a set of observations from laser microscopy, the team was able to find it Noticeable differences between claws and intestines From the fossil of more than 1,300 species of tardigrades that live today on Earth.

The study was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B They are called tardigrades Paradoribius Chronocaripius as part of new type, considered close to Isohypsibioidea, the largest family of tardigrades today.

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For the first time, we saw the internal anatomy of a tardigrade fossil and found features in this specimen that we don’t see in living things today. This will not only allow us to put this tardigrid into a new type, but also Explore evolutionary changes They have suffered for millions of years.

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