SYNTRICHIA CANINERVIS (Syllabus GS Paper 3 – Env and Eco)

News-CRUX-10     3rd July 2024        
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Context: Scientists have identified a species of desert moss called 'Syntrichia caninervis' that could be a game-changer for future space exploration and colonisation efforts.

Syntrichia caninervis

  • About: It is one of the most abundant desert mosses globally.
  • Global Distribution: Found extensively across dryland regions, including the Gurbantunggut and Tengger Deserts (China), Mojave Desert (USA), Pamir Mountains, Tibet, Middle East, Antarctica, and circumpolar regions.
  • Environmental Adaptations

oEnvironmental Tolerance: Exhibits remarkable tolerance to drought, cold, and radiation stress.

oDesiccation Tolerance: Can recover within seconds after losing more than 98% of its water content.

oFreezing Tolerance: Capable of withstanding ultra-low temperatures down to −196°C.

oRadiation Resistance: Shows exceptional resistance to gamma radiation, with a half-lethal dose estimated at 5,000 Gy.

  • Adaptation: Uses tiny hairs (awns) on leaf ends to collect water, supplementing water collected by leaves themselves.


    • Plant Classification: Mosses are flowerless, spore-producing plants with spores formed in small capsules.
    • Global Distribution: Found worldwide except in saltwater, commonly in moist, shady locations.
    • Habitat and Role: Often carpet woodland and forest floors, contributing to nutrient release by breaking down substrata.
    • Ecological Role: Aid in soil erosion control, provide surface cover, absorb water, and contribute to nutrient and water economy of vegetation.
    • Economic Importance: Some species, like Sphagnum mosses, such as those forming peat, have significant economic value.
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