Do Tardigrades have any immune protection against bacteria and viruses?

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to SE Biology. Please read the Help on Asking Good Questions. A one-liner starting with an obvious typo (repeated in the title) hardly corresponds to providing context and demonstrating an attempt to answer the question yourself. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Oct 22, 2023 at 15:22

1 Answer 1


I could not find any data on their surival following an infection compared to uninfected individuals. I could not find a proper description of their immune effectors either. However, I would be very surprised if Tardigrades did not exhibit immune reactions in the case of a sceptic wound. They are exposed to many different bacteria in their environment, which affects their own microbial communities, and even seem to have endosymbionts: https://par.nsf.gov/servlets/purl/10217788 Endosymbionts are usually kept under control by the immune system in insects. I expect it to be the case in tardigrades.

They do not seem to possess the classic pathways leading to antimicrobial peptides production in other ecdysozoa, although in their genomes you can find other NF-κB distantly related NFAT homologs: https://academic.oup.com/g3journal/article/10/3/1137/6026230?login=false

In this paper : https://www.biologie.hhu.de/fileadmin/redaktion/Fakultaeten/Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche_Fakultaet/Biologie/Institute/weitere_und_ehemalige_Dozenten/weitere_Dozenten/Prof._Dr._Hartmut_Greven_i._R/2005_04_2005-Greven-Dastych---Kraus-integument.pdf there is a picture of their hemocytes, which in insects have an immune function.

I could find mention in several papers of a pigment resembling melanin, which in insects (as well as a lot of other clades) has an immune function.

More evidence might come, although I would assume their size to make experimental infections and RNA extraction (in order to detect upregulated genes) very complicated.

  • $\begingroup$ Does this actually answer the question? I'm asking because I could not find any papers that actually concluded that they do have any immunological capabilities, and that the genes comparable to those of other organisms' immune systems might have been conserved for other reasons. Thanks. (My takeaway was, "They might, but we don't know yet." However, I have only the most basic understanding of immunology.) $\endgroup$ Oct 21, 2023 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ You are right, this is more my opinion based on the information I could find. I rephrased my answer. $\endgroup$
    – CaroZ
    Oct 21, 2023 at 23:53

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