Yvonne Carts-Powell

No oxygen? No problem for these animals

In Uncategorized on April 16, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Multicelled critter lives without oxygen. Image from paper in BMC Biology

Extremophiles can live in deep sea vents and at extreme heats and chemical environments, but so far as we knew, only viruses and bacteria (and archaea) could live without oxygen. Pretty much every living thing that we can see has mitochondria in their cells, which depend on oxygen to create ATP, which powers the rest of the cell.

If no oxygen, then no mitochondria, which means no ATP, which means (except for rare exceptions) no multicellular organisms. Even animals that don’t use mitochondria use oxygen in other ways.

Except… biologists just discovered some critters don’t need oxygen. Ever. Multicellular organisms that don’t use oxygen have been reported, with eggs, even!

Deep under the Mediterranean Sea, in the mud beneath water full of salt and sulphur — and devoid of oxygen — multicelled creatures were found by researchers from the Polytechnic University of Marche, Ancona, Italy. They report their findings in the the open access journal BMC Biology.

Want to dig deeper?

Here’s a link to the abstract, from which you can get the full journal paper: The first metazoa living in permanently anoxic conditions by Roberto Danovaro, et al., BMC Biology 2010, 8:30 doi:10.1186/1741-7007-8-30

Two scholarly commentaries in the same journal explain why this is important:
commentary by Lisa Levin and by Marek Mentel and William Martin.

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