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Tardigrades along altitudinal gradients

Another sampling trip to the Italian Alps is behind us. We collected more samples for the Sonatina 6 project funded by the National Science Centre, Poland.

Photo: Daniel Bajorek & Daniel Stec. On a trail near Verbania, Italy.

What is the project about? Altitudinal gradients lead us from the lowlands to towering peaks. For centuries, scientists have explored these gradients in pursuit of understanding the intricate patterns of life on our planet. However, many questions remain unanswered. In this era of environmental change, deciphering the drivers of species diversity has never been more crucial. Our focus today? Microscopic animals, particularly the fascinating world of tardigrades.

Photo: Daniel Bajorek & Daniel Stec. High-altitude site in the Italian Alps.

Recent revelations in the scientific world have shattered the once-prevailing "ubiquity paradigm" that claimed that the meiofauna, creatures no larger than about 1 mm, could thrive anywhere on Earth. Instead, we're beginning to comprehend that their distribution is far more complex.

Daniel Stec’s Sonatina project aims to unlock the secrets of meiofauna diversity and distribution along an altitudinal gradient. To do this, he’s turning to one of nature's most resilient and varied groups within the meiofauna: tardigrades. These microscopic animals are known for their unique characteristics, including cryptobiotic tolerance (the ability to endure harsh conditions), diverse diet preferences, and various reproductive strategies.

Photos: Daniel Bajorek & Daniel Stec. Stunning views from the recent sampling trip.

Moss samples collected along an altitudinal gradient in the Alps are to be used to characterize their tardigrade communities and uncover factors that shape these communities. Stay tuned for the results!


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