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Henneguya salminicola: Anaerobic parasite

Date: 29 February 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous


Researchers have discovered a non-oxygen breathing animal, which changes one of science’s assumptions that all animals use aerobic respiration and therefore, oxygen.



Animals, including humans, need energy to perform the various tasks that are essential for survival. Aerobic respiration is one such chemical reaction through which organisms take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.



  • The discovery challenges what may be generally thought of as evolution in organisms, 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.

  • The organism is Henneguya salminicola, a fewer-than-10-celled microscopic parasite that lives in salmon muscle.

  • As the organism evolved, it gave up breathing and stopped the consumption of oxygen for the production of energy, which means it relies on anaerobic respiration.

  • Other organisms such as fungi and amoebas that are found in anaerobic environments lost the ability to breathe over time. The new study shows that the same can happen in the case of animals, too.

  • During sequencing of genes, 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 and its absence in the H. salminicola genome indicates that the parasite does not breathe oxygen.

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