What is Cryptobiosis?

Cryptobiosis is the condition of inactive metabolic activity during adverse environmental conditions. In this state, the organism can live for a longer period until the conditions are favourable again. Reproduction, development and repair stop due to the inactivation of the metabolic activities.

Cryptobiotic desiccation is the most common. For eg; nematodes, brine shrimp, yeast, tardigrades, etc. It explains the two potential states of life. Many organisms cannot exhibit this phenomenon because freezing or drying disrupts their membranes, which allows the leakage of small molecules or denatures the proteins.

Let us have a look at some of the organisms that undergo cryptobiosis.

Also read: Suspended Animation

Types of Cryptobiosis

Following are the different types of cryptobiosis:


Anhydrobiosis means “life without water”. It refers to the ability of some organisms to survive extreme water stress. This has been observed in lichens, cyanobacteria, yeast, mosses, algae, etc. This state is induced by desiccation.


This situation occurs during lack of oxygen when the organism becomes turgid by taking in water and immobilising.


It is the suspension of metabolic activities in response to high levels of metabolic toxins. Tardigrades exhibit chemobiosis.


This type of cryptobiosis occurs during reduced temperatures. When the water surrounding the organism freezes, cryobiosis is initiated and all the metabolic activities of the organisms are paused.


It occurs in response to increased solute concentration of the solution in which the organism lives. However, less is known about this type.

Examples Of Animals Exhibiting Cryptobiosis

Brine shrimp

These are crustaceans that are found in salty lakes all over the world. They produce cysts known as “dormant eggs”, during unfavourable conditions. The cyst is metabolically inactive and can survive in dry and anaerobic conditions. These can survive boiling temperatures and temperatures below freezing point.


The active dry yeast is commonly used in baking as a leaving agent. The live yeast is encapsulated in a thick, dry jacket of dead cells with some growth medium. Yeast can be stored at room temperature, or in the refrigerator or freezer for a very long time.


These are microscopic organisms found in water. A matured tardigrade is 0.5 mm long with eight legs. They have the ability to suspend their metabolism and undergo cryptobiosis for almost 10 years. Due to this nature, they are able to survive extreme temperatures, pressure, desiccation, and radiation.


During environmental stress, the bacteria form dormant, tough, non-reproductive structures known as endospores. They help the bacteria to survive when the conditions are not favourable for survival. They are resistant to radiation, drying, temperature, chemical disinfectants, and starvation.

Cryptobiosis in Humans

Cryptobiosis in humans is known as suspended animation. Researchers have devised ways to save lives through cryptobiosis. Doctors in the US have been working on a technique known as Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation. In this, the blood in the body is replaced with cold saline fluid, which would decrease the body temperature to 10°C.  This chills the body and the brain and there is very less requirement for oxygen by the body. This reduces the chances of brain damage. By doing this they can get ample time to cure severe injuries such as those caused by accidents and gunshots. Soon after the treatment, the saline is replaced with blood and the body rewarms gradually. The process has successfully experimented on pigs.

Also read: Seed Dormancy

For more information on Cryptobiosis, its types, and examples, keep visiting BYJU’S website or refer to the BYJU’S app for further reference.

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Frequently Asked Questions


How is cryptobiosis related to Tardigrades?

Cryptobiosis is a metabolic state of life in which an organism enters during unfavourable conditions. Tardigrades undergo this death-like state to combat environmental stress.


How long do tardigrades live?

A tardigrade can live for decades together. Once coming in contact with water, a tardigrade returns to its normal metabolic state within a few hours. A 100 year old dehydrated tardigrade was taken from a sample of moss and brought back to life.


What is osmobiosis?

Osmobiosis is a type of cryptobiosis triggered by increased solute concentration in the solution in which the organism lives.


Does cryptobiosis occur in humans?

Cryptobiosis does not occur in humans, but research is being carried out to save lives through cryptobiosis. This will give doctors ample time to cure severe injuries.

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