Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Tardigrade

Before you freak out at the picture, let me make this statement first: the Tardigrade is the most incredible animal in the entire world.

If you can't get past the creepy sucker-like face, the tardigrade is also called a water bear. Because it kind of looks like a gummy bear? I don't know. But the tardigrade is closely related to arthropods, including bumble bees and lobsters.

Why is it awesome? The tardigrade is an extremophile. Extremophiles, as the name suggests, live in extreme environments in terms of temperature, pressure, toxicity and radiation. And the tardigrade is the extremest of the extremophiles.

It can survive:
- temperatures as low as −273 °C (−459 °F, close to the lowest temperature possible when all atomic activity stops), or temperatures as high as 151 °C (304 °F)
- 1000 times more radiation than ANY other animal. In their dehydrated state, up to 6,000 Gy (Grays) of gamma ray radiation. For references, 5-10 Gy are lethal to humans.
- up to 10 years without water
- being almost completely dehydrated. The tardigrade is composed of 85% water, more proportionally than humans are, but it can survive being dehydrated. Then rehydrated. And go along its merry way.
- toxins
- the vacuum of space. If you were to step outside a spaceship in orbit, your lungs would expand in a matter of seconds, and you would explode. (Remember that scene in Event Horizon?)

So, the tardigrade can survive almost any environment, from the hottest of the hot to literally coldest of the cold. But this is where it lives:

Yep. Eating moss.

34 comments:

  1. It is a bit creepy looking. I'd rather run into the orange kitty. He's cute (adorable actually). Oh, and I assume he since the majority of orange cats are male. If he's a she, then she's special :)

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  2. HOLY!
    That is freakishly weird and awesomely cool at the same time!
    Can you tell me how big/small it actually is?
    Thanks for sharing another amazing creature.

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  3. The largest ones grow to 1.5 mm! They're tiny tiny!

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  4. Fascinating. Stopping by from the A to Z Challenge.

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  5. It looks like someone wearing one of those fat suits! Not that you wear them over your face as well, of course.

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  6. Whoa! I've never heard of these before. Thank yo for sharing. I'm so glad I found your blog. I'm stopping by from the A to Z challenge and I look forward to visiting again.

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  7. That's an amazing animal-it totally looks like a stuffed animal.

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  8. This is really cool. Minor correction, though: a human exposed to the vacuum of space would not explode in a matter of seconds, though that is a common myth. I have linked to a short essay from NASA about this, but here's an excerpt: "You do not explode. Your blood does not boil. You do not freeze. You do not instantly lose consciousness. Various minor problems (sunburn, possibly 'the bends', certainly some [mild, reversible, painless] swelling of skin and underlying tissue) start after ten seconds or so. At some point you lose consciousness from lack of oxygen. Injuries accumulate. After perhaps one or two minutes, you're dying. The limits are not really known."

    http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/answers/970603.html

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    1. Pardon the hyperbole, Don. I suppose I should have clarified that within 10 seconds the human body would be a bloating, blue mess and that the blood would begin to boil by 90 seconds of exposure. However, I write romance, and such a post on my blog might turn potential (romance) readers away. ;)

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  9. Isn't it also true that some scientists think water bears are aliens? That in their dormant (dry) state, they can last much longer than ten years and may in fact be able to travel the galaxy in asteroids and the like? I know it sounds crazy,and I don't know where I read the original, but here's some info - http://www.space.com/5974-alien-water-bears-amaze-scientists.html

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  10. Mmm... My science teacher me some questions about this peculiar animal. I thought it was a real bear! Ha ha! It looks so different from other common animals I've seen. It looks a bit cute! :)

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  11. Amazing! God created all things! (I am a romantic reader) lover your article, thank you for sharing...

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  12. Enlarge it 100x, and you've got a race of indestructible space invaders!

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  13. Does it survive in the space? Does it not breath oxygen?

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  14. no exploding in space http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pm6df_SExVw

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    1. See above for response to hyperbole :P

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  15. so it can't stand the pressure of the vacuum of space, what about an energy source? how long can it go without some form of energy?

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  16. Another correction, water bears are actually NOT classified as extremophiles because they are not adapted to LIVE in these conditions. Tardigrades have adapted to environmental stress by undergoing a process known as cryptobiosis. Cryptobiosis is defined as a state in which metabolic activities come to a reversible standstill. It is truly a death-like state; most organisms die by a cessation of metabolism. Water bears are more likely to die the longer they remain in this state and will only resume metabolizing when returned to a habitable environment. Just thought I'd let ya know.

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    1. Depending on your source, tardigrades can be classified as an extremophile because they can tolerate certain conditions. Most extremophiles get that label because they thrive in extreme conditions. They are definitely on the margins of the polyextremophiles, but nonetheless have made the cut.

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  17. Thanks, I was totally 'rapt when I saw my first live tardigrade. It is good to see you showing the beauty and importance of small things

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  18. Excellent! Thank you for sharing. My new favorite creature..

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  19. It does not look real. Neither does the background.

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    Replies
    1. Well, thank technology that we can record images like this!

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  20. Wow how fascinating. If we could learn how this small creature adapts to survive such extremes perhaps it could be useful to us fragile humans.

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  21. Wow how fascinating. If we learn how these small creatures adapt to survive such extreme conditions perhaps it could be useful to us fragile humans.

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  22. Wow how fascinating. If we could learn how this small creature adapts to survive such extremes perhaps it could be useful to us fragile humans.

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  23. Wow how fascinating. If we could learn how this small creature adapts to survive such extremes perhaps it could be useful to us fragile humans.

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  24. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  25. Hello could you please tell me if you took this picture and how? If not, who took it?

    Olivio Argenti

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