14 November 2011

Rotifers – Boil Them, Freeze Them: Just Add Water and They Live!

Rotifers are tiny animals that survive against all the odds. They are also known for not having had sex for 80 million years.  They are all female and reproduce asexually by parthenogenesis.  That may be weird enough – but not without other examples in the animal kingdom. At first I thought this was some elaborate practical joke but it is quite true (but then I had not heard about them or if I had, then I had forgotten!).

What is amazing about rotifers is their seemingly impossible ability to survive all sorts of extremes. In this video , Dr Alan Tunnacliffe, award-winning Cambridge University researcher at the Institute of Biotechnology, tests their super-powers by draining 90% of the water in their microscopic bodies, heats them to boiling point and freezes them in liquid nitrogen.

Still they thrive! Well discover how these extraordinary animals are able to survive under conditions deadly to most life and what this teaches us about how life might travel through space and potentially how it could have arrived on Earth. Dr  Tunnacliffe’s team are poised to revolutionize medicine by bringing the tough tricks of the Rotifers to human cells and medicines.