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Carried aloft, tiny creatures avoid parasites, sex

Dry and blowing in the breeze, rotifers escape deadly fungus — and perhaps the vulnerabilities of asexuality

For scientists wondering how bdelloid rotifers escape malicious parasites, the answer is blowing in the wind.

The tiny freshwater invertebrates, which live in ponds, streams and moss the world over, are notorious among biologists for two unique traits. They can survive for up to nine years as dry, desiccated grains, and they have never been caught having sex. The species has only females, as far as scientists can tell, and one generation creates the next by cloning.

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