Hermaphroditism is a well-studied characteristic of different animal species, based on which one person can boast characteristics that usually belong only to the male sex or only to the female sex.
However, what some Caltech researchers have discovered goes further.

The researchers have analyzed in detail the genus of the nematode worm inhabiting Lake Mono, California, in a water body with a high content of arsenic. Researchers have found a new species, which is temporarily called Auanema, classified within the same genus. This new species has three different sexes: male, female and hermaphrodite. In other words, it presents all the characteristics of men and women at the same time.

This kind of different species were already known, but none of them originated from extreme environments, and therefore none of them could be considered extreme. This is also why researchers have classified the new species as belonging to this species. Already known species of the genus Auanema were isolated from soils rich in manure, which contained high concentrations of phosphates.

This microscopic nematode worm was described in a study published yesterday in Current Biology and can be considered an extremophile: it is resistant to the conditions of this lake, where there is a lot of arsenic, a condition unsuitable for the vast majority of other forms of life.

It can also thrive in normal conditions, as confirmed by the same laboratory researchers, which distinguishes them from most other known extremophiles, who in different conditions are experiencing difficulties from their extreme conditions. It is for this reason that Auanema can be grown in a laboratory using the same methods used with Caenorhabditis elegans, the most widely analyzed and known nematode.

“Our research shows that we still have a lot to learn about how these 1000 celled animals have learned to survive in extreme conditions,” says Pei-Yin Shi, one of the authors of the study, together with his colleague James Siho Li.

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