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J Morphol. 2003 Aug;257(2):246-53.

Morphological response of a bdelloid rotifer to desiccation.

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Department of Biology, State University of Milan, 20133 Milano, Italy.


We desiccated bdelloid rotifers (Macrotrachela quadricornifera), submitting the animals to four desiccation procedures (protocols A, B, C, D) that differed in the rate of water evaporation, in the time of desiccation, and in the substrates provided. We observed external morphological changes of the rotifer bodies during drying with scanning electron microscopy and, in parallel, assessed rates of recovery after a 7-day period of dormancy. Two protocols produced disorganized morphologies of the anhydrobiotic animals, with no (A) or very poor (B) recovery. Protocols C and D gave rather high rates of recovery and dry rotifers appeared unaltered and well organized. The different protocols affected rotifer morphology during the 7-day anhydrobiosis and rates of recovery after the 7-day anhydrobiosis; high recovery rates corresponded to well-organized morphologies of anhydrobiotic bdelloids, suggesting that a proper contraction of the body into a tun shape and probably a rigorous packing of internal structures are necessary for survival after anhydrobiosis. These features are affected by the time between water shortage and full desiccation, but also by the surrounding relative humidity and by the nature of the substrate. Possible adaptations of anhydrobiotic rotifers are discussed.

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