Scientists Found an Animal Species That Doesn't Breathe
Mon, October 25, 2021

Scientists Found an Animal Species That Doesn't Breathe


It has long been established that all living organisms rely on a constant supply of oxygen to survive. Scientists have also been skeptical that organisms of the animal kingdom could survive in places without oxygen or in anaerobic oxygens. This considers the rise of multicellular species along with the rise of oxygen levels on Earth. However, scientists were surprised to discover an animal species that doesn’t need oxygen at all. 


Photo Credits: The New York Times


A typical trait among multicellular creatures is breathing oxygen. A parasite known as Henneguya salminicola used to have a mitochondrial genome just like any other multicellular organism, which enables animals to rely on oxygen. But, the parasite currently has no mitochondrial genome which is usually where the respiratory genes would be. This makes H. salminicola the only known animal on our planet that doesn’t breathe.


Photo Credits: All That's Interesting


H. salminicola belongs to the myxozoa class of parasites, which sustains itself by feeding on fish, typically salmon. Marine species contaminated by this parasite are referred to as having “tapioca disease” due to the white bubbly ooze that its physical form takes. A recent study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that the parasite has devolved in its physiology and has stripped most of its multicellular traits from itself. 

“They have lost their tissue, their nerve cells, their muscles, everything. And now we find they have lost their ability to breathe,” co-author Dorothée Huchon, an evolutionary biologist at Tel Aviv University in Israel, said. 


Photo Credits: All That's Interesting


According to All That’s Interesting, a site for curious people who want to know more about what they see on the news or read in history books, the scientists are still figuring out how the parasite converts the energy it absorbs from its feeding. “Right before us is an animal whose evolutionary process is the opposite. Living in an oxygen-free environment, it has shed unnecessary genes responsible for aerobic respiration and become an even simpler organism,” Huchon said. 



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