While space agencies are too busy seeking life forms on other planets, we should bear in mind that on our own beloved planet there still is a lot to learn about how life can develop itself. There are hundreds of thousands of species of animals, some of them friendly, others hostile, and some just outstandingly weird.
The star of the show today lands directly into the third category. We were all taught in schools that all animals need oxygen in order to live, but now, that definition should be changed a bit. Scientists discovered the Henneguya salminicola, a tiny parasite that has less than 10 cells and lives in the salmon tissue.
How can it live without oxygen?
If you hope that you can mimic how the parasite is getting its energy and that you can somehow quit your addiction for oxygen, you will be very disappointed. The Henneguya salminicola parasite lives inside salmon and nurtures itself with ready-made nutrients. Also, the creature is adapted by dropping the mitochondria genome entirely, and this makes it save energy.
The animal is a myxozoan cnidarian, which means a type of animal related to jellyfish and coral. And as long as the little creature is composed of more than one cell, it can be considered an animal.
Stephen Atkinson, who is a research associate at Oregon State University’s Department of Microbiology and a co-author of the study regarding the newfound animal, explains something simple:
When we think of ‘animals,’ we picture multicellular creatures that need oxygen to survive, unlike many single-celled organisms including protists and bacteria,
In our work, we have shown that there is at least one multicellular animal that does not have the genetic toolkit to use oxygen.
Perhaps humanity should stop wondering how life forms are on other planets and stop inventing stories about little green men with big black eyes. The life forms from our own planet are weird enough.