Life is full of strange things and scientists keep surprising us with new discoveries. The latest discovery is a microscopic worm that survives in arsenic-laced, super salty Mono Lake in California, which is one of the places on Earth that is not at all fit for supporting life. According to reports, scientists have found eight roundworm species and one of those species has three sexes. It has a pouch similar to that of Kangaroo’s and can carry the young inside of its body. This discovery of this nematode might help researchers understand the effects of arsenic on human ecology. One of the species of nematodes, momentarily known as Auanema, has three sexes, male, female as well as hermaphrodites. This is a bizarre creature even by extreme standards as scientists were able to cultivate the worm in the laboratory, something very difficult to do for other extremophiles.
Researchers found that the worm gives live birth to its offspring after hatching them in a pouch, one similar to that of Kangaroo. According to the paper published in Current Biology, this could be a form of parental care to prevent the young from harsh conditions of Mono Lake. Scientists also noted that giving live birth to larvae may be useful for adapting to extreme environments. Apart from being able to survive in the harsh condition, this worm can surprisingly also live in normal conditions in the lab. So it has a capacity to adjust to it surrounding in order to survive and could show us innovative strategies for dealing with stress, Pei-Yin Shih, study’s lead author said. This suggests newly discovered roundworm may have genetic flexibility in adapting to benign and harsh environments alike
Surprisingly, the worm is able to survive approximately 500 times the human lethal limit of arsenic for almost an hour. The harsh condition of the Mono Lake in California, where the worm was discovered, can be gauged by the fact that it has an alkaline pH of 10 and three times as salty as the ocean.