Distribution of Tardigrades Within a Moss Cushion: Do Tardigrades Migrate in Response to Changing Moisture Conditions?

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The distribution of tardigrades within the layers of the cushion moss Grimmia alpicola Hedwig, 1801 was investigated. The aim of this study was to determine the tardigrade species present within the moss layers during both wet and dry periods and to determine if migration occured in response to changing moisture conditions. Samples of the moss were removed from concrete caps on brick fence posts before and after rainfall and separated into two sections (top and bottom). The tardigrades from each layer and moisture condition were identified to species. Data for each species were statistically analyzed with a two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) to compare the numbers of individuals present in the top and bottom layers of the moss under both wet and dry conditions. Five tardigrade species were identified, including two species new to science: Macrobiotus sp. n.: Milnesium tardigradum Doyère, 1840: Echiniscus viridissimus Peterfi, 1956; Echiniscus perviridis perviridis Ramazzotti, 1959; and Echiniscus sp. n. The new species will be described in a forthcoming paper. No significant differences were found in the numbers of the individuals of four of the five species in each layer within the moss or for each moisture condition. Only one species, E. viridissimus, was significantly more frequent in the top layer of the moss, regardless of moisture condition. Migration within the moss cushion was not detected in any of these five species as a result of changes in moisture conditions. In xeric moss species, it may not be beneficial for tardigrades to migrate to avoid desiccation. Instead, they apparently undergo anhydrobiosis in both the top and bottom layers of the moss cushion.