Background: Tardigrades are microscopic organisms, famous for their tolerance against extreme environments. The establishment of rearing systems of multiple species has allowed for comparison of tardigrade physiology, in particular in embryogenesis. Interestingly, in-lab cultures of limnic species showed smaller variation in hatching timing than terrestrial species, suggesting a hatching regulation mechanism acquired by adaptation to their habitat. Results: To this end, we screened for coordinated gene expression during the development of two species of tardigrades, Hypsibius exemplaris and Ramazzottius varieornatus, and observed induction of the arthropod molting pathway. Exposure of ecdysteroids and juvenile hormone analog affected egg hatching but not embryonic development in only the limnic H. exemplaris. Conclusion: These observations suggest a hatching regulation mechanism by the molting pathway in H. exemplaris.
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