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Watch African killifish embryos enter suspended animation to survive

To survive parched pond beds during monthslong dry seasons in countries like Zimbabwe and Mozambique, the African turquoise killifish (Nothobranchius furzeri) does something usually reserved for the realm of sci-fi: Its embryos enter suspended animation. For about 5 to 6 months, this killifish, roughly the size of a thumb, puts most of its embryo’s critical body processes—including muscle and nerve cell growth—on hold. The state, scientifically known as diapause, prevents the embryos from needing critical resources when none is available in its environment. It’s an extreme survival technique, but one that, surprisingly, has no negative effects on the life span of a fully developed adult, researchers report today in Science. This video compares the embryos and life spans of killifish who either experienced or skipped diapause, capturing time-lapses and detailed snapshots of their embryonic development. According to the researchers, these discoveries could illuminate unknown mechanisms to preserve cells and, perhaps, methods to combat aging and age-related diseases in humans.