Glaciers and ice sheets are considered a biome with unique organism assemblages. Tardigrada (water bears) are micrometazoans that play the function of apex consumers on glaciers. Cryoconite samples with the dark-pigmented tardigrade Cryoconicus gen. nov. kaczmareki sp. nov. were collected from four locations on glaciers in China and Kyrgyzstan. The erection of the new genus is based on a unique combination of morphological traits as well as on phylogenetic analyses. The analysis of COI sequences in the new species revealed high genetic differentiation with 9 haplotypes shared among 13 sequenced individuals from three sequenced populations. There was no apparent geographic structure in COI haplotype diversity, which might indicate effective dispersal abilities of the new species. A recovery of numerous live individuals from a sample that was frozen for 11 years suggests high survival rates in the natural environment. The ability to withstand low temperatures, combined with dark pigmentation that is hypothesised to protect from intense UV radiation, could explain how the new taxon is able to dwell in an extreme glacial habitat. We also found that a rare mountain tardigrade Ramazzottius cataphractus (Maucci, 1974) is morphologically similar to the new species, therefore we propose to transfer it to the new genus. Our study indicates that glacier invertebrate fauna is still poorly known and requires intense research.
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Vol. 68 • No. 1