FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Scientists Have Found A Creature That Can Survive Without Oxygen

Back in school, we had been taught that the multicellular organism needs oxygen to survive. There were no exceptions to this rule until now! The scientists have now found the first-ever animal that can live without oxygen. This unique creation is called Henneguya salminicola.

H. salminicola is a jellyfish-like parasite that is found within the muscle tissue of salmon. The creature contains less than 10 cells and does not need oxygen to live.

After finding out about the unique ability of H. salminicola, Dorothee Huchon, a zoologist at the Tel Aviv University said “Aerobic respiration was thought to be ubiquitous in animals, but now we confirmed that this is not the case.”

For a long time, scientists have held the belief that complex and multicellular organisms have evolved over thousands of years to depend on oxygen for their survival. It was believed that the cells use oxygen for making energy but that theory changed when Huchon’s team examined and sequenced H. salminicola’s genes.

The scientists found that the organism did not have mitochondria, the biological machinery used by the cells in order to break oxygen into energy.

The absence of the powerhouse of a cell in this organism shows that it does not use oxygen for energy. It has evolved to survive without oxygen. 

Huchon said “Our discovery shows evolution can go in strange directions. Aerobic respiration is a major source of energy, and yet we found an animal that gave up this critical pathway.”

We are aware that several single-cell organisms have evolved the ability to live without mitochondria and oxygen. However, this is the first time this phenomenon has been seen in a multicell organism.

H.salminicola’s exact emergency source is not known yet. Huchon is of the view that the organism could be drawing oxygen directly from cells in its host salmon. It could also be using techniques like fermentation. Another possibility is that the creature depends on a different molecule (e.g. salt or iron) for energy.

This discovery changes the way we see complex life on Earth. It also affects the search for life beyond this planet.

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