Sunday, March 05, 2006

Water Bears - The World's Toughest Animal


A little off topic, but still. . . Here's something I found particularly interesting from last month's Washington Post:

James D. Lawrey, a George Mason University biologist, is studying lichens at several National Park Service sites in the Washington area...

Within their small colonies, they harbor a lot of life.

"One gram of moss from the forest floor, a piece about the size of a muffin, would harbor 150,000 protozoa, 132,000 tardigrades [tiny invertebrates], 3,000 springtails, 800 rotifers, 50 nematodes, 400 mites, and 200 larvae," according to Robin W. Kimmerer in "Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses." "These numbers tell us something about the astounding quantity of life in a handful of moss."

Interesting. I know what a a larva and protozan is, I think I know what nematodes, mites,, and rotifers are, but what's a tartigrade?

I looked up tartigrades on wikipedia. They are also called Water Bears. They are kind of cute, at least for a microscopic invertebrate. Compare the cuddly Water bear with a mite. I'll take tartigrades any time.

Now here's the thing I really like about tartigrades. They are apparently the World's Toughest Animal. You can shoot them into space, take them to the deepest ocean depths and let them go, deprive them of air, water, and food for years and they don't care. Send them into the core of nuclear reactor. They'll be fine.

From the wiki entry on tardigrades:

1. Tardigrades can survive being heated for a few minutes to 151 °C or being chilled for days at -272.8 °C (almost absolute zero).
2. Radiation— Shown by Raul M. May from the University of Paris, Tardigrades can withstand 5700 grays of x-ray radiation. (Five grays would be fatal to a human).
3. Pressure—They can withstand the extremely low pressure of a vacuum and also very high pressures, many times greater than atmospheric pressure. In theory, they could even survive the vacuum of space, though the possibility of it is slim.

That's one tough cookie.

24 comments:

kylark said...

I love them! They are soooo cute!

Anonymous said...

tartigrades were always one of my favorite invertibrates. volvox is pretty cool too.

Eddie said...

I first head about waterbears on Mal Webb's album. mp3 on the site.

He also has a song about Henrietta Lacks called Helen Lane.

M.Schumacher said...

Learnt about them about 20 years ago in a book I had. Amazing critters!

Anonymous said...

but can they withstand a roundhouse kick to the face by Chuck Norris.....?

Anonymous said...

Tardigrade v. Chuck Norris?

cleek said...

look at those claws!

my cat's gonna be jealous

Anonymous said...

Tar d igrade

Ivo said...

Very interesting.

politech said...

The only thing tougher would be ... Chuck Norris! Of course!

But it could be close.

Anonymous said...

wow
so tiny and so detailed
sounds really hardy
maybe there are some secrets there for humans...

farlane said...

Hmmm...Almost like they're adapted to carry biologic information across the hostile gulf of space.

They are cute in a Japanese schoolgirl lunchbox sort of way.

i said...

those are soooo cute. I want one.

jakie said...

You probably have one. ;)

Anonymous said...

ekoostik hookah!!! Waterbear!!!

the world makes sense!

A.R.Yngve said...

It just hit me:

If only a handful of those critters make it to Mars, hitch-hiking on a spacecraft(and it's NOT impossible, since the waterbear can hibernate in dried-up form)... then the Red Planet will be overrun by waterbears.

PLANET OF THE WATERBEARS! Waaahh!! :-O

Anonymous said...

I, for one, welcome our Martian waterbear overlords.

Pepperman said...

Are they good on toast?

Pepperman said...

Are they good on toast?

Anonymous said...

Mr T could take them!

Anonymous said...

Chuck Norris should use his amazing sexual prowess and mate with a colony of tartigrades. Their offspring would be so tough as to be able to take out god, just like their old man did.

Anonymous said...

What eats them?

Anonymous said...

http://tardigrades.bio.unc.edu/

Anonymous said...

I eat them! Hehehe. By the way, who's Mr. T?