henneguya-salminicola

Context:

Researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) have discovered a non-oxygen breathing animal

About Henneguya salminicola

  • The organism is Henneguya salminicola, a fewer-than-10-celled microscopic parasite that lives in salmon muscle
  • The parasite does not require oxygen and was discovered by accident while assembling its genome sequence
  • One of the researchers saw that it did not have a mitochondrial genome
    • Mitochondria is the “powerhouse” of the cell, which captures oxygen to make energy - its absence in the H. salminicola genome indicates that the parasite does not breathe oxygen. 

Significance of the discovery:

  • It significantly changes one of science’s assumptions about the animal world - that all animals use aerobic respiration and therefore, oxygen.

It challenges evolution in organisms theory - that they become more complex as they evolve. In the case of this non-oxygen breathing organism, evolution turned it into a simpler organism that shed unnecessary genes responsible for aerobic respiration.