Scientists Discovered The First Animal That Lives Without Oxygen

Dhir Acharya - Feb 26, 2020


Scientists Discovered The First Animal That Lives Without Oxygen

For all we know, oxygen is an important part of every form of life on Earth. It keeps the cells in our bodies alive, we can't survive without oxygen.

For all we know, oxygen is an important part of every form of life on Earth. It keeps the cells in our bodies alive, we can't survive without it. All multicellular life on this planet basically evolved to use oxygen over millions of years.

However, scientists have discovered Henneguya salminicola, a parasite that contains less than 10 cells, living in the salmon’s muscle tissue. The parasite doesn’t breathe oxygen. It appears that this is the very first multicellular animal to have been observed surviving without using oxygen.

Scientists Discovered The First Animal That Lives Without Oxygen

Zoologist Dorothee Huchon at Israel-based Tel Aviv University said that aerobic respiration was believed to be very common in animals but they have now confirmed that it’s not all true.

Working with a group of international researchers, Huchon and the research team examined and sequenced all the genes of Henneguya salminicola in their study. They discovered that the parasite, having a close relation with jellyfish, doesn’t have mitochondria – the DNA machinery needed for breathing. The mitochondria of a cell are usually called its powerhouse as it makes energy from oxygen. It’s like there is a tiny factory inside cells while DNA sleuths can find genes when sequencing.

Henneguya salminicola

The research team discovered this by accident as they were probing the species’ genome. However, they didn’t find any mitochondrial genes.

Huchon stated that the discovery is proof that evolution can go toward strange directions that we may not expect. Aerobic respiration has long been a key energy source and now they have found an animal that doesn’t go this way.

Some single-celled forms of life have evolved to be able to survive without oxygen and don’t have mitochondria. Many protozoans and bacteria can live without any oxygen, such as those living at the seabed near hydrothermal vents as well as some human pathogens living in the body. They generate energy from fermentation or other molecules like iron or mercury.

Henneguya salminicola

What remains unclear is how Henneguya salminicola produces energy. It’s suggested by Huchon that it could take oxygen from other cells in the salmon or it might have evolved in similar ways to unicellular organisms that were documented before.

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