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Nature's Great Survivors: Water Bears

"QUANTUM SHOT" #293(rev)
Link - article by Max Miroff and Avi Abrams

These tiny creatures can withstand more hardship than any other animal on the planet, and you can probably find some in your backyard. They are truly nature's greatest survivors.

Tardigrades (Known as water bears or moss piglets) are some of the most interesting animals in the world, simply because they can survive so well in the most extreme conditions.

(images credit: Eye Of Science/SPL/Solent, waterbears)

Careful! It's got claws! -

(images credit: Willow Gabriel, Goldstein Lab)

These small, segmented animals were discovered by Johann August Ephraim Goeze, an aquatic zoologist, in 1773. Over 900 species of water bears have been found everywhere around the world - from the Himalayan mountains (at elevations of over 6000 meters) to deep ocean areas (4000 meters below sea level). They are most often discovered on mosses, lichens, and various types of sediments. An easy way to observe them is to soak a piece of moss in spring water.

Tardigrade in the moss water:

(image credit: Jasper Nance)

Freeze them, boil them, dry them, expose them to open space & radiation - and after 200 years they'll still be alive!

The amazing thing about these tiny, 1mm creatures is just how resilient they are to about everything. You can put them in space, in hot sea vents, and freeze them - no matter what you do, they'll survive.


You see, Tardigrades can survive in:

Extreme cold (at -272 degrees Celsius for a couple of minutes, or at -200 degrees Celsius for days on end)

Extreme heat (being heated to 181 degrees Celsius for a couple of minutes)

Extreme radiation (easily surviving 5,700 grays of radiation. A gray is about as much radiation as 5,000 chest x-rays. 10-20 grays can easily kill a human and most animals.)

Extreme dehydration (A tardigrade can survive for a decade with no water)

In a vacuum - Yes, a water bear can survive in space!

These tiny organisms can be found everywhere - in fact, there are probably hundreds of these creatures just a few meters from where you are standing. They aren't as publicized as they should be, but these creatures are truly fascinating. It's amazing that these miniscule beings can survive for so long in the circumstances when others will certainly die out.

(images via)

So here's to Tardigrades, nature's greatest survivors!

They are also kinda cute...(on the left is the early Eutardigrade illustration by Andrew Pritchard):

...and they look great in art:

(images credit: Norwood Matt, Justin Paszul)

Article by Max Miroff and Avi Abrams, Dark Roasted Blend. Additional sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6




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Anonymous tangle said...

Water bears- the pinnacle of evolution... best adapted to multiple environments. Too bad they're not intelligent- or maybe they are? :o

Blogger Marc Savoy said...

Cool! If only we could enlarge one of these things to life size dimensions. sigh.

Blogger Craig said...

Maybe they're merely the protrusion into our dimension of vast hyperintelligent pan-dimensional beings. ;)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah yes but do they have any knowledge of self?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a great song about them available on iTunes (and other places) by Mal Webb

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who wants to live so long, being so ugly?..

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely article, but it's "minuscule," not "miniscule."

Anonymous Anonymous said...

imagine if we grew one of those to human size... holy crap! it will destroy us all! these would be like indestructible. radiation, freezing, burning, we couldn't stop it! it would be the ultimate killing machine!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"imagine if we grew one of those to human size... holy crap! it will destroy us all! these would be like indestructible. radiation, freezing, burning, we couldn't stop it! it would be the ultimate killing machine!"

Well, I'm sure if they got that big a spear would do nicely....


You try the spear. If it doesn't work, I'll be back here with the rocket launcher!

Blogger DJ said...

I think we should use their genetic material to cross-breed a new strain of humanoids. These things are awesome.

Oh, and to Anonymous: "miniscule" is an accepted alternative spelling of "minuscule"... look it up, if you don't believe me.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are you boiling me?! Why are you boiling me?! Owwww! This is so painful!

Anonymous MCSharp said...

Sorry to disappoint all those that think growing a human size one of these would be great and indestructable... If you did manage by some mystery of science to create one any larger than they are now it would probably die, restrictions in cell size, body size and organ size due to water loss, diffusion and active uptake means that surface area to volume ratios must be kept in a certain range or the poor little thing would just die :-( but if you do manage to get a big one going... dont keep it a secret! lol!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How interesting!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Movies! http://tardigrades.bio.unc.edu/movies/

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Anonymous I<3LOVEMEECH said...

makes you think.. and believe the earth will go on even after we are extinct. i think they maybe ETs aka extra terrestrials. maybe we all decend from other worldly beings. would love to get a animal psychic in on this one.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right when you say they aren't publicized. This is the first time I've heard of them. No mention even in high school biology.

Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

Australian Musician Mal Webb has a throat-singing, beat-boxing, looped song called The Water Bear Song. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKamWp610ng)

Anonymous Tom Peck said...

This is crazy!! Maybe they're an alien invasion!! The first picture looks like it's man-made, but the others are obviously not. ??

Blogger Stickmaker said...

I, for one, welcome our new tardigrade masters! :-)


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