Establishment of a rearing system of the extremotolerant tardigrade Ramazzottius varieornatus: a new model animal for astrobiology

Astrobiology. 2008 Jun;8(3):549-56. doi: 10.1089/ast.2007.0139.


Studies on the ability of multicellular organisms to tolerate specific environmental extremes are relatively rare compared to those of unicellular microorganisms in extreme environments. Tardigrades are extremotolerant animals that can enter an ametabolic dry state called anhydrobiosis and have high tolerance to a variety of extreme environmental conditions, particularly while in anhydrobiosis. Although tardigrades have been expected to be a potential model animal for astrobiological studies due to their excellent anhydrobiotic and extremotolerant abilities, few studies of tolerance with cultured tardigrades have been reported, possibly due to the absence of a model species that can be easily maintained under rearing conditions. We report the successful rearing of the herbivorous tardigrade, Ramazzottius varieornatus, by supplying the green alga Chlorella vulgaris as food. The life span was 35 +/- 16.4 d, deposited eggs required 5.7 +/- 1.1 d to hatch, and animals began to deposit eggs 9 d after hatching. The reared individuals of this species had an anhydrobiotic capacity throughout their life cycle in egg, juvenile, and adult stages. Furthermore, the reared adults in an anhydrobiotic state were tolerant of temperatures of 90 degrees C and -196 degrees C, and exposure to 99.8% acetonitrile or irradiation with 4000 Gy (4)He ions. Based on their life history traits and tolerance to extreme stresses, R. varieornatus may be a suitable model for astrobiological studies of multicellular organisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Animals
  • Desiccation
  • Environment
  • Exobiology / methods*
  • Life Cycle Stages
  • Models, Animal*
  • Ovum / growth & development
  • Parasites / cytology
  • Parasites / growth & development*
  • Parasites / ultrastructure
  • Survival Analysis
  • Time Factors
  • Water / metabolism


  • Water