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African killifish embryos enter suspended animation to survive

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Channel: Science Magazine
Categories: Biology   |   Science  
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To survive parched pond beds during months-long dry seasons in countries like Zimbabwe and Mozambique, the African turquoise killifish (Nothobranchius furzeri) does something usually reserved for the realm of sci-fi: its embryos enter suspended animation. For about five to six months, this killifish, roughly the size of your thumb, puts most of its embryos critical body processesincluding muscle and nerve cell growthon hold. The state, scientifically known as diapause, prevents the embryos from needing critical resources when none are available in its environment. Its an extreme survival technique, but one that, surprisingly, has no negative effects on the lifespan of a fully developed adult, researchers report today in Science on Feb. 21. This video compares the embryos and lifespans of killifish who either experienced or skipped diapause, capturing time-lapses and detailed snapshots of their embryonic development. According to the researchers, these discoveries could illuminate unknown mechanisms to preserve cells and, perhaps, methods to combat aging and age-related diseases in humans.

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