Henneguya Salminicola: Anaerobic Parasite

Relevancy

  • G.S. Paper 3
  • Anaerobic parasite
  • Significance of this discovery

Why in news?

  • Scientists have discovered an animal Henneguya Salminicola which does not need oxygen to produce the energy needed for its survival.
  • This changes one of science’s assumptions that all animals use aerobic.

Background

  • 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.

About Henneguya salminicola

  • The discovery bears enormous significance for evolutionary research.
  • It is a tiny, less than 10-celled parasite which lives in the muscles of salmon fish.
  • It is a relative of jellyfish and corals and as it evolved, it gave up breathing and consuming oxygen or became anaerobic to produce energy.
  • It does not not have a mitochondrial genome.
  • Absense of Mitochondria indicates that the parasite does not breathe oxygen.
  • Aerobic respiration was thought to be prevalent in animals but now it is confirmed that animals can survive with anaerobic respiration.
  • However, it is not yet clear how the parasite generates energy.
  • It may be drawing it from the surrounding fish cells or it may have a different type of respiration such as oxygen-free breathing, which typically characterises anaerobic non-animal organisms like fungi, amoebas or ciliate lineages.

What is Aerobic respiration?

  • 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.
  • Through this mechanism, energy is transferred to cells, which can use it for multiple purposes — for instance, to burn food.
  • 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.