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 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 dessication.
This situation occurs during lack of oxygen when the organism becomes turgid by taking in water and immobilizes.
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
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 radiations.
During environmental stress, the bacterial 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. The 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, that would decrease the body temperature to 10°C. This chills the body and the brain and there is very less requirement of 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 been successfully experimented on pigs.
Also read: Seed Dormancy
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