Rotifers, also called wheel animalcules, are microscopic animals already discovered by Antony van Leeuwenhoek in 1703. They are one of the smallest animals on earth.

Rotifers can be found in almost all freshwater environments, and occasionally in brackish and marine habitats. But they also live in the thin water films of moist soil, leaf litter, mosses, lichens and even on crustaceans and aquatic insect larvae.

Rotifers are small, transparent, multicellular animals having specialized organ systems, including a complete digestive system with mouth and anus. Most species are smaller than 1 millimeter and feed on bacteria, unicellular algae and dead organic material.



A particular clade of rotifers, called bdelloids, are notorious because the more then 400 described species only contain females, males have never been observed. They produce daughters from unfertilized eggs, also called parthenogenetic reproduction.

In addition to their ancient asexuality, bdelloid rotifers are known for their remarkable capacity to survive complete dryness at any stage in their life cycle.

These small creatures with their unusual characteristics astonished Karine Van Doninck who started to study bdelloid rotifers in 2003 at Harvard University, with Prof. Matthew Meselson.

One bdelloid rotifer species, Adineta vaga, became the model system in the laboratory of Prof. Karine Van Doninck with a chromosome-scale genome assembly obtained recently (2019).

RESEARCH OUTPUTS (coming soon)


Discover our latest publications and upcoming events about rotifers and the RISE project.