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CUSAT researchers name new marine tardigrade species after A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

Researchers at the Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat) have identified a new species of marine tardigrade which they have named after the late former President and scientist A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Named ‘Batillipes kalami’, the new species of tardigrades was found by researchers in the intertidal beach sediments of Mandapam coast, close to Kalam’s birthplace in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu.

About ‘Batillipes kalami’

  • The newly-discovered species is approximately 0.17mm long and 0.05mm wide, characterized by four pairs of legs.
  • It belongs to the phylum Tardigrada, which comprises more than 1,300 described species.
  • Of them, just 17% are marine species.
  • Batillipes kalami is the 37th species under the genus Batillipes. Few morphological variations among species and limited number of differential characters make its taxonomy challenging and problematic.
  • Though studies on tardigrades are increasing worldwide, the phylum remains unexplored. Studies from India are in the evolving stages.
  • This is the second time a marine tardigrade is described from Indian waters – the first time from the east coast.
  • In 2021, the same research team discovered a marine tardigrade from the southwest coast and named it ‘Stygarctus keralensis’ after the state of Kerala.

What is Tardigrades?

  • Tardigrades, often referred to as water bears, are eight-legged micro-animals found in the water.
  • They are known for extraordinary resilience and survival abilities in extreme environmental conditions.
  • They are considered to be one of the toughest organisms on earth, having survived all five mass extinctions, and are also the first known animal to survive in space.
  • Ecologically, they act as pioneer species by inhabiting new developing environments, attracting other invertebrates to colonise the space.

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