New tardigrade species named after Chandrayaan-3 mission

New species discovered from southeast coast of Tamil Nadu. It is the third marine tardigrade species to have been scientifically described from the Indian waters and the second from the east coast

May 02, 2024 08:06 pm | Updated 09:27 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

Batillipes chandrayaani

Batillipes chandrayaani | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

A new species of marine tardigrade discovered from the southeast coast of Tamil Nadu has been named Batillipes chandrayaani after the Chandrayaan-3 moon mission by researchers at the Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat). The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is credited with the first landing near the south pole of the moon.  

Tardigrades are microscopic marvels commonly known as ‘water bears,’ although they have no relation to actual bears. 

The names aside, what makes the Cusat discovery special is that it is the third marine tardigrade species to have been scientifically described from the Indian waters and the second from the east coast.

The journal Zootaxa has published a paper on the discovery authored by research scholar Vishnudattan N.K, S. Bijoy Nandan (Senior professor) of the Department of Marine Biology, Microbiology, and Biochemistry, Cusat, and Marcos Rubal, Centre of Molecular and Environmental Biology, University of Minho, Portugal. 

Marine tardigrades account for 17% of all known tardigrade species. They are also found in all the oceans. These animals are measured in micrometre and researchers use advanced microscopes to study them. Despite their tiny physiques, these micro-metazoans easily rank among the hardiest animals, enduring mass extinctions and are highly regarded for their survival skills. 

Batillipes chandrayaani has been discovered in the intertidal beach sediments at Mandapam in Tamil Nadu. Similar in size to other tardigrades, it grows to a length of 0.15 millimetres and 0.04 millimetres in width. It has a trapezoid-shaped head and four pairs of legs with sharp-tipped sensory spines. Both sexes are similar in terms of morphology and size, the Zootaxa paper notes. Batillipes chandrayaani is also the 39th species described under the genus Batillipes. 

“Tardigrade taxonomy is a challenging and problematic task given the few morphological variations and limited number of differential characters,” Dr. Nandan, who is also the Vice-Chancellor of Kannur University, said 

The same Cusat team had discovered a tardigrade species from the southwest coast (Stygarctus keralensis) in 2021 and another from the southeast coast (Batillipes kalami) in 2023. The scientific paper observed that tardigrade study holds “great promise and potential” in India. Marine tardigrades have received much less attention compared to their terrestrial counterparts, it noted. 

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