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Earth Science

An Animal That Lives Without Oxygen 166

Posted by timothy
from the besides-me dept.
Julie188 writes "Scientists have found the first multicellular animals that apparently live entirely without oxygen. The creatures reside deep in one of the harshest environments on earth: the Mediterranean Ocean's L'Atalante basin, which contains salt brine so dense that it doesn't mix with the oxygen-containing waters above."
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An Animal That Lives Without Oxygen

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  • Strange (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:29PM (#31765362) Homepage

    I find it odd that the article mentions absolutely NOTHING about the implications of this discovery as it pertains to life on other planets.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I find it odd that TFA is only about twice as long as the summary.

      If it is under 300 words, it's not a real article and I can admit I read it right?

    • Re:Strange (Score:5, Funny)

      by CorporateSuit (1319461) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:38PM (#31765546)
      Or how a bucket of these might taste! They live in brine, are from the sea... Imagine these on french fries and potato chips!
    • Wasn't oxygenic life a relative latecomer anyway?
    • Re:Strange (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:41PM (#31765592) Homepage

      I find it odd that the article mentions absolutely NOTHING about the implications of this discovery as it pertains to life on other planets.

      Maybe because terrestrial biologists aren't always thinking in terms of extra-terrestrial biology? It's just not everyone's field of study.

      Of course, the exo-biologists (and geeks here on Slashdot) will make the connection, but I'm hardly surprised TFA didn't. Me, I'm no longer surprised to hear that there are such organisms -- the longer we have known about "extremophiles" the more it makes it fairly obvious that critters adapt to all sorts of condition, and quite likely originated in them. For me, it makes it fairly obvious that in the big-honking galaxy (let alone universe) that at least *some* form of life ha evolved elsewhere.

      Now, knowing this doesn't make it any easier to look for life on other planets. It broadens the search parameters, but I don't think it gives us a tool to say "there could be life there". But, who knows, astronomy has grown quite a lot in my lifetime.

      Cheers

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by noidentity (188756)

        Of course, the exo-biologists (and geeks here on Slashdot) will make the connection, but I'm hardly surprised TFA didn't. Me, I'm no longer surprised to hear that there are such organisms -- the longer we have known about "extremophiles" the more it makes it fairly obvious that critters adapt to all sorts of condition, and quite likely originated in them.

        Yes, I've learned about a life form that can live without sunlight, members of the opposite sex, and surive entirely on pizza and soda pop. There's even a

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          Yes, I've learned about a life form that can live without sunlight, members of the opposite sex, and surive entirely on pizza and soda pop.

          Girl geeks don't survive entirely on pizza and soda pop, they like chocolate as well.

          Oh, wait, you meant ...

        • Yes, I've learned about a life form that can live without sunlight, members of the opposite sex, and surive entirely on pizza and soda pop. There's even a website devoted to this life form, but I forget the name right now.

          http://chubby-gay-goth.com [chubby-gay-goth.com]?

    • Re:Strange (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Adustust (1650351) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:41PM (#31765596)
      I agree that this article is very lacking on details. I would like to know more about how the hydrogenosomes affect the creature's mobility and whether or not a larger animal could be sustained with these organelles.
      • Re:Strange (Score:5, Informative)

        by theguyfromsaturn (802938) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @03:19PM (#31766358)

        This probably does not answer your questions, but it covers a bit more details than the original post. Also, if you click on the title, you will link to the source article.

        http://thedragonstales.blogspot.com/2010/04/anaerobic-metazoans.html [blogspot.com]

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        These creatures apparently are essentially immobile, attaching firmly to marine sediments. This applies to their aerobic relatives as well, so it seems that lack of motility likely has little to do with their anerobic respiration. A more active organism would probably struggle to survive using hydrogenosomes, however since the hydrogenosome reaction only makes ATP for energy via substrate-level phosphorylation. In aerobic respiration, most of the ATP ultimately produced is from oxidative phosphorylation,
        • by rastos1 (601318)
          Where is "gibberish" mod when you need it?
          • All right, I may have gone a little overboard with the jargon there. All I was trying to say is that by using hydrogenosomes rather than mitochondria, this organism misses out on a lot of the available chemical energy in its food. In most enviroments on earth, a multicellular organism that tried to live like this would be strongly outcompeted by its oxygen-gulping rivals. However, living attached to anoxic sediments at the seafloor, this organism has little need for mobility, food is abundant from things
    • I thought oxygen wasn't actually a requirement (except when bonded to hydrogen to form water, of course.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Chris Burke (6130)

      We already knew of anaerobic monocellular life, so hypothetically life could arise on a planet without oxygen. The only thing this changes is that it means we could hypothetically also find multicellular life on such a planet. I don't think existing theory said such life was impossible, meaning it was already a hypothetical possibility, so now it's no longer hypothetical on earth, and somewhat less hypothetical for alien worlds.

      Which is still pretty cool. I myself previously assumed that we'd find multic

      • by mpe (36238)
        We already knew of anaerobic monocellular life, so hypothetically life could arise on a planet without oxygen.

        Including Earth a long time ago, before there were organisms producing free oxygen through photosynthesis.

        The only thing this changes is that it means we could hypothetically also find multicellular life on such a planet.

        Quite possibly multicellular anerobic organisms have been around for a long time.
    • Re:Strange (Score:5, Informative)

      by srmalloy (263556) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:50PM (#31765746) Homepage

      There are other articles with more coverage -- Live Science [livescience.com], BMC Biology [biomedcentral.com] (PDF of 20-page article with pictures available), New Scientist [newscientist.com], Nature [nature.com], and others. The provisional PDF available at BMC Biology is the full article as it was accepted, and details the experimental procedure that confirmed that these were completely anaerobic organisms.

    • by madsenj37 (612413)
      Although it might seem strange, these are not the first organisms on earth currently living that do not breath oxygen. The implications for life on other planets have already been discussed based on that fact. They live in extreme climates without light and seem to exist off of the rocks they live on. There is also anaerobic bacteria. However, the articles mentions the first multi-cellular organisms that do not require oxygen on earth. There are implications however, they are a different set.
      • Although it might seem strange, these are not the first organisms on earth currently living that do not breath oxygen.

        No one is claiming they are.

    • I find it odd that the article mentions absolutely NOTHING about the implications of this discovery as it pertains to life on other planets.

      That's because there are no practical implications about the discovery of life on other planets. Life on a very diverse world found time to comfortably evolve into a hostile environment. That doesn't at all mean that, for example, the moon could have life.

      Frankly, until we actually discover some life elsewhere, the possibilities of what we'll find are wide open. Invent a creature and it could exist somewhere simply because we don't know otherwise. We may even find that nine times out of ten a species won

  • Sorry, couldn't help me self.

  • Not new (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by beakerMeep (716990)
    CmdrTaco replaced oxygen with tacos years ago.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Since these animals live underwater, this means they must also have found water without oxygen!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:42PM (#31765606)

    There is no Mediterranean Ocean. There is however a Mediterranean Sea.

    • by toriver (11308)

      If you want to be formal. Some languages however use their word for "ocean" when talking about the Mediterranean: Norwegian and Swedish for instance. Same goes for the Caspian Sea.

      Then again we have lakes that we call fjords, and vice versa.

      • by ari_j (90255)
        There are also Lakes which are not lakes, such as Lake Maracaibo, a bay. We also have the Aral Sea, a lake. The point is that there are proper nouns that are the correct names for bodies of water, and in English the name of the body of water known to the Romans as mare nostrum is the Mediterranean Sea. Translations from other languages in which it is known as something equivalent to "middle of the Earth ocean" should use the correct English name for the body. If they do not, then they are mistranslation
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by oldhack (1037484)
      Oh the Mediterranean Ocean, where the Jumbo Shrimps frolic happily.
    • by khallow (566160)
      It used to be an ocean [wikipedia.org].
  • Unsurprising (Score:4, Interesting)

    by thepike (1781582) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:42PM (#31765616)

    Given that there are plenty of bacteria that can do this (including those that find oxygen toxic) it's not surprising that multicellular creatures have evolved to take advantage of low oxygen environments. There are probably numerous, people just haven't been looking hard enough. Plus, when you store your samples in places with air, you get serious sampling bias for things that like air.

    • Re:Unsurprising (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:54PM (#31765824)
      This has interesting implications for biosphere models during and before the Oxygen Catastrophe of the Siderian period. It also reveals an alternative evolutionary path which with these exceptions was otherwise prevented by those events. It fundamentally changes the possibilities of pre-Siderian life.
    • Given that there are plenty of bacteria that can do this (including those that find oxygen toxic) it's not surprising that multicellular creatures have evolved to take advantage of low oxygen environments.

      Do you mean that some multicellular aerobic organisms evolved into multicellular anaerobes, or that some monocellular anaerobes evolved into multicellular anaerobes? The article seems to suggest the latter, with the no-mitochondria claim.

      • It actually points to the former- a multicellular aerobe adapting to an anoxic niche. The particular evidence is in its use of hydrogenosomes. Hydrogenosomes are believed to be a degenerate form of the aerobic mitochondrion. They have the same double membrane structure, import pyruvate from glycolysis, and include various other components like coenzyme A and ferredoxin. They however lack most of the electron carriers and enzymes of the citric acid cycle and oxidative phosphorylation. The metazoans disco
    • by geekoid (135745)

      Yeah, you're a genius. What other great an unfounded obvious things are there?

      Stop trying to imply your smart, it only backfires.

      "Plus, when you store your samples in places with air, you get serious sampling bias for things that like air."
      You don't say?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by hallucinogen (1263152)
      The thing is that multicellular organisms require a lot more energy than unicellular organisms and for that there's the citric acid cycle. However there's no citric acid cycle without oxygen. This is the reason we haven't found any multicellular anoxiphiles (?) so far. I think. BTW there's a horrible mistake on the second sentence of the original article and they say it went thru peer-review. WTF! Hint: google "anoxia tolerance"
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Lunar_Lamp (976812)
        The second sentence is:

        "Although a few metazoans can survive temporarily in the absence of oxygen, it is believed that multi-cellular organisms cannot spend their entire life cycle without free oxygen."

        I did Google for a bit, and couldn't find anything to disagree with this, except the word 'temporarily'. While I'm not particularly familiar with anoxia tolerance, my quick searching suggests that certain species of turtle can have up to 3months without oxygen in cold water. There may be others out th

  • Anaerobic respiration [wikipedia.org] does precisely that and has been doing so for generations.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by milgram (104453)

      I think this might be more in line with an organism that doesn't use O2, rather than one that does but can exist for periods of time without it.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methanogen

    • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @03:01PM (#31765986)
      You're ignoring the huge, huge chasm between unicellular and multicellular organisms, one which was not bridged by evolutionary processes for over 3 billion years by most estimates. It was previously thought that multicellular life without an oxygen-based metabolism was impossible, because previous models of microorganism evolution pegged multicellular development to a point after the Oxygen Catastrophe of the Siderian period. This discovery may lead to wholesale revision of models of microorganism evolution over geologic time.
      • by khallow (566160)

        You're ignoring the huge, huge chasm between unicellular and multicellular organisms, one which was not bridged by evolutionary processes for over 3 billion years by most estimates. It was previously thought that multicellular life without an oxygen-based metabolism was impossible, because previous models of microorganism evolution pegged multicellular development to a point after the Oxygen Catastrophe of the Siderian period. This discovery may lead to wholesale revision of models of microorganism evolution over geologic time.

        There's another possibility here. That these multicellular organisms obtained their hydrogenosome (anaerobic equivalent to mitochondria) from some symbiotic or parasitic unicellular life. I don't understand the taxonomy of these animals, but they seem very complex and from a branch of animals far removed from unicellular life. A jump to an anaerobic biology seems pretty tough to do, unless they borrowed the metabolism wholesale from another organism. It'll be interesting to see if their hydrogenosome is rel

    • by Hognoxious (631665) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @03:11PM (#31766216) Homepage Journal

      The key part is multicellular. As in what your brain isn't.

  • by assemblerex (1275164) * on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:46PM (#31765696)
    To think that all life needs oxygen or even a sun to exist goes back to our belief that the earth is the center of the universe.In reality we are a blip on the map.
    • Even David Attenborough who himself narrated the Blue Planet were animals were shown that lived independent of the sun, narrated happily on Planet Earth that all lives needs the sun... It is just that for us it is so true that we forget that it isn't.

      Fact: Hetero males have more anal sex then homosexual men. See how that fits in your little hetero world. Thinking the universe revolves around you is more common then you think.

      • As they say, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.

        Fact: Hetero males have more anal sex then homosexual men. See how that fits in your little hetero world. Thinking the universe revolves around you is more common then you think.

        This is true, but only if you think in absolute terms instead of per capita terms. There are simply more heterosexual people, therefore even if only a fraction of them have anal relations frequently, the shear number overcomes the number of homosexuals who have such intercourse all the time. As with most 'number of people' issues, only a per capita model has any relevance, and therein things are exactly as you expect.

        And for the record, I'm bi.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Locke2005 (849178)
          I'm bi. Does that have any effect on the frequency that you spend the night alone in your mom's basement? If it does, I know some slashdotters that may be willing to give it the old college try...
          • I'm starting to cease being surprised when this joke gets trotted out [slashdot.org] every time I reference my sexuality.

            (Read as: you're not original.)
            • by Locke2005 (849178)
              Glad you took that well. Yes, that was yet another lame attempt at humor based on the cliche of slashdotter as nerd living in mom's basement. On the one hand, nobody really needs to know your orientation unless they are planning on dating you. On the other hand, one of my pet peeves is people like Anne Heche that claim "I'm a lesbian!" when they are dating women, and "No, really, I'm straight!" when they are dating men, when they should just STFU and admit to themselves they are bi. So in that respect, I co
              • Prior to Prop 8 I used to say that nobody needed to know, but now it seems imperative that everyone voluntarily out themselves to increase acceptance of these minority sexual preferences.

                This is pretty much it. I see it more as a political statement than an in-your-face sexual declaration, which is why I don't go into any detailed exposition. My family is homophobic in the extreme, in fact when I was growing up my dad would talk about how all "the gays" should be rounded up and exterminated. Not only am I bi, but I've had years of issues with gender dysphoria (and no, I never transitioned). Needless to say I've spent a lot of hours in therapy. All of this has underscored how important it is

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            /literal reply to joke

            You might think this is the case, that being bisexual 'automatically' doubled ones dating pool, but thats really not the case. As a bi male myself, I have found a significant number of heterosexual females and a notable number of homosexual males to be less than open to a bisexual partner, at least in terms of a serious relationship. Most of what I HAVE found has been more interested in open relationships or the possibility of a threesome, or something to that effect... and t

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              I grew up in very religious conservative circles with very homophobic parents. I've taken the path of least resistance, dating women and even marrying (to a wonderful woman who accepts everything about my sexuality, luckily). I haven't given myself much of an opportunity to express my homo side, but I don't live in denial. I get off to gay, straight, and transgender pr0n. If I'm attracted to a guy I'll probably comment on him to my wife, though we never seem to agree on which guys are hot (or girls for tha
      • by geekoid (135745)

        NO they don't. That which they get energy from depend on the sun.

        Just sayin.

      • by tgd (2822)

        There's a difference between a script, which sounds good and is just fine for its target audience, and what scientists know or believe.

        You neither know he happily narrated that, nor that he was under the impression it was true.

        And considering there is vast amounts of life that has no relation to the sun (chemeosynthesis), and its not a grand secret, its not all that entrenched of a thought.

        However, relative to the discussion at hand, there's a HUGE difference between not assuming a particular form of life C

      • Oh, and though it's been alluded to, it has not been explicitly stated by others that all known life does depend on the sun in some way, if for nothing else than providing the energy to keep the earth at a temperature above 2.7 Kelvin of deep space. So, stick that in your pipe and nuclear fusion it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      Actually, plant life needs carbon dioxide, not oxygen. when the planet first formed, it didn't have an oxygen-rich atmosphere. The oxygen in our atmosphere had to be generated by plants. Life existed for hundreds of millions of years before any life that required oxygen evolved.
      • by tgd (2822)

        Unicellular life -- the branch of life we consider "plants" after the point the atmosphere changed over to an oxygen/nitrogen one.

      • by riverat1 (1048260)

        Plants need oxygen as well as carbon dioxide. When they're not photosynthesizing they take in oxygen and emit carbon dioxide.
         

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Actually, plant life needs oxygen. Plants respire just like most other multicellular organisms. They just also happen to produce oxygen through photosynthesis as a byproduct of their food production.

      • Plant life needs Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen ....

        The oxygen in the atmosphere is and was generated mostly by unicellular life (not plant or animal)

        Unicellular life existed hundreds of millions of years before the atmosphere was pumped full of oxygen, and it was toxic to the majority of that life ... this is why multicellular anoxic life is interesting and unexpected

      • by mpe (36238)
        The oxygen in our atmosphere had to be generated by plants.

        Or more likely something similar to cyanobacteria. Especially given that chloroplasts appear to be derived from such organisms.
    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Of course, if we were to truly understand that we were nothing but an invisible dot on an invisible dot, infinitely small, our souls would be destroyed [wikipedia.org].

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by postglock (917809)
      Ultimately, these animals are still dependent on a source of energy such as a sun. These animals are not capable of capturing such energy themselves, but rely on photosynthetic organisms such as plants or algae at the bottom of the food chain. As another poster pointed out, carbon dioxide is necessary for this photosynthesis, not oxygen. This is converted into sugar, which animals subsequently consume. Hydrogenosomes function similarly to mitochondria in converting sugar into ATP (more accessible energy), b
      • But there are entire ecosystems in the ocean which derive no energy from the sun in any way.

  • Core Paper (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The summary discusses an article which is talking about an abstract of the provisional paper available at http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1741-7007-8-30.pdf [biomedcentral.com] .

  • There are vast deposits of salt beneath the Mediterranean, so much so that it's been suggested (Miracle Planet episode x(?)) that the salt deposits were necessary to the evolution of life forms today because of the amount of salt taken from the seas. Sorry I've not the time to search more but this The Mediterranean Disaster Mystery [nasca.org.uk] link gives an intro.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mindbrane (1548037)
      Sorry I just read the linked to page. Do Not Go There. Again Sorry. Try the Miracle Planet Episode. So sorry...
  • by johno.ie (102073)

    Water is 89% oxygen by weight.

    • by SheeEttin (899897)
      True, but that oxygen means nothing if you can't separate it from the hydrogen.
      Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink, eh?
  • no cthulhu tag?

  • How do you kill that which has no life?!

    • by Petrushka (815171)

      How do you kill that which has no life?!

      That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die.

      Duh!

  • "The creatures reside deep in one of the harshest environments on earth: the Mediterranean Ocean's L'Atalante basin"

    We don't have a Mediterranean Ocean here on Earth.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediterranean_Sea [wikipedia.org]

    Landlubbers. If they can't see the other bank, then it must be an ocean.

  • Fantastic! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by grikdog (697841) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @10:05PM (#31771188) Homepage
    Begs the question, is this an evolved form of some other oxygen-using Earth native? Or does it share absolutely NO ancestors with any other form on Earth? The latter is strong evidence for life as we don't know it elsewhere in the cosmos. A pretty strong hint, iow, that life is cheap and ubiquitous.
  • Perhaps this little guy does live on oxygen, but simply has a process to separate from the hydrogen directly from the water itself. Just because there is no saturated oxygen dissolved in the water doesn't mean it doesn't live on oxygen.

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