• rotifers;
  • extreme adaptation;
  • starvation;
  • dormancy;
  • morphology;
  • electron microscopy;
  • CLSM


Bdelloid rotifers survive desiccation and starvation by halting activity and entering a kind of dormancy. To understand the mechanisms of survival in the absence of food source, we studied the anatomical and ultrastructural changes occurring in a bdelloid species, Macrotrachela quadricornifera Milne 1886, after starvation for different periods. The starved rotifers present a progressive reduction of body size accompanied with a consistent reduction of the volume of the stomach syncytium, where lipid inclusions and digestive vacuoles tend to fade with prolonged starvation. Similar reduction occurs in the vitellarium gland, in which yolk granules progressively decrease in number and size. The changes observed in the syncytia of the stomach and the vitellarium suggest that during starvation M. quadricornifera uses resources diverted from the stomach syncytium first and from the vitellarium syncytium later, resources that are normally allocated to reproduction. The fine structure of starved bdelloids is compared with that of anhydrobiotic bdelloids, revealing that survival during either forms of dormancy is sustained by different physiological mechanisms. J. Morphol., 2011. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.