Do you want a pet tardigrade? They're basically tiny Pokemon.
November 29, 2016 1:02 AM   Subscribe

Tardigrades or "waterbears" are cute tiny nigh-indestructible 10-legged beasts that prefer to live in wet environments but can also survive the hard vacuum of space. They sound exotic, but they're probably right there in your own backyard. The Stanford Tardigrade Project has an easy guide for finding your own pet waterbears. There are several videos showing what you will see when you find them.
posted by Sleeper (33 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is very cool and I'm amazed at the detailed write-up. I saw tardigrades a few weeks ago when examining mosses. But the climate (this was in Yorkshire) was so wet that my steps consisted basically of:
1. pluck moss from the ground
2. put moss under microscope
3. see tardigrade wiggling around.
posted by vacapinta at 1:42 AM on November 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


Waterbears make cockroaches seem pikers. When cockroaches gather and discuss their reputation they wonder at tardigrade. Just looking at them makes me itch something furious.

They are ridiculously, stupidly, tiny masterpieces of some sort of what-the-fuck bad motherfuckers - by any measure:

From the wiki: "Tardigrades are notable for being the most resilient animal: they can survive extreme conditions that would be rapidly fatal to nearly all other known life forms. They can withstand temperature ranges from 1 K (−458 °F; −272 °C) (close to absolute zero) to about 420 K (300 °F; 150 °C),[7] pressures about six times greater than those found in the deepest ocean trenches, ionizing radiation at doses hundreds of times higher than the lethal dose for a human, and the vacuum of outer space.[8] They can go without food or water for more than 30 years, drying out to the point where they are 3% or less water, only to rehydrate, forage, and reproduce."

Thanks for the post
posted by vapidave at 2:36 AM on November 29, 2016 [9 favorites]


Tardigrade were here before us and they will be here after us. It is their planet.

"Although their evolutionary history is uncertain, scientists estimate that they’ve been part of a larger group of critters around for at least 520 million years. This means that these microscopic beasts have possibly survived at least five mass extinctions events, including the one that killed off at least 90 percent of all life on Earth 252 million years ago." - from here
posted by vacapinta at 2:47 AM on November 29, 2016 [12 favorites]


Tardigrades are adorable in real life, and obviously also available in plush form. Heartening that some things are likely to survive us.
posted by bouvin at 3:06 AM on November 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


I guess I missed something. The actual news to me is not the tardigrade -- I've seen that Octonauts episode -- but the foldscope. If they're truly as cheap and simple as they make them out to be here, every student in the world should be playing with them. Include one or more with every biology book, for example.
posted by pracowity at 4:35 AM on November 29, 2016 [23 favorites]


Their supreme leader also has a twitter account.
posted by yoga at 5:12 AM on November 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Water bears kick sea monkey ass.
posted by briank at 5:32 AM on November 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


I love water bears! I learned of them and their resilience when I was about 11, and every so often I would just google them again and read up because it's so fascinating.

I agree with pracowity, I learned about the foldscope a couple days ago in one of those minivideos on facebook. I was thinking about putting a post together, there's been some already amazing footage caught by everyday people with their iphones n whatnot.
posted by FirstMateKate at 5:42 AM on November 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


Captain Tardigrade!
posted by leotrotsky at 6:03 AM on November 29, 2016 [1 favorite]




Tardigrade were here before us and they will be here after us. It is their planet.

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from the tardigrades.
posted by panama joe at 6:39 AM on November 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, no, sorry: prickly feets, a mouth like a Hoover but no eyes.

It's a nightmare.
posted by allthinky at 7:15 AM on November 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


How would a tardigrade wear pants though?

You don't last 520 million years as a species by wearing pants. Humanity, take note.
posted by dephlogisticated at 7:52 AM on November 29, 2016 [10 favorites]


Foldscopes are great. I have several. Their inventor, Manu Prakash of Stanford, recently received a MacArthur "Genius" Award -- he does lots of very diverse and amazing things. Years ago, he was also part of the team that instigated Fab Labs, an interesting story in itself.
posted by brambleboy at 7:55 AM on November 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


We also have foldscopes! They're a little fiddly for us—it took awhile to get the hang of them—but they are an incredibly clever and cool design. Just constructing them was an education.
posted by Orlop at 8:15 AM on November 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Woudn't it be easier to just buy an ant?
posted by PlusDistance at 8:17 AM on November 29, 2016


I keep throwing Pokeballs and the little bastards never turn up.
posted by delfin at 8:40 AM on November 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


I would love to get a Foldscope for my son for Christmas but it seems that they aren't out of Kickstarter phase yet and you can pitch in to the Kickstarter at the $20 level to get one, but it won't ship until the summer. (This whole alpha/beta testing things via Kickstarter is cool and everything, but frustrating).
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:44 AM on November 29, 2016


I'm not sure you can really keep something like that as a pet, so much as pay tribute in the form of food and shelter. They don't need you, and you probably exist mainly out of their apathy.
posted by MuppetNavy at 8:50 AM on November 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


This means that these microscopic beasts have possibly survived at least five mass extinctions events, including the one that killed off at least 90 percent of all life on Earth 252 million years ago.

So did the ancestors of the dinosaurs, those of the passenger pigeon and the mastodons and the dodos as well as, of course, our own.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:29 AM on November 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


Water bears kick sea monkey ass.

My little sea monkey colony died out recently*, so now I'm highly considering replacing them with tardigrades.

*my little colony lasted 3 years! I left my container by a window and I never changed the water - I just topped it off if it looked a little low. One big guy was left by the end of it - he had big antennae(?) and I called him Thor.
posted by littlesq at 9:43 AM on November 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


So did the ancestors of the dinosaurs, those of the passenger pigeon and the mastodons and the dodos as well as, of course, our own.

Which ancestor are you referring to?

I mean microorganisms will likely survive for billions of years after multicellular life goes extinct, but are you referring to something else?
posted by Sleeper at 10:02 AM on November 29, 2016


Love this post, and finding out about the foldscope. However tardigrades are not "10-legged beasts" – they have 8 legs.
posted by oulipian at 10:34 AM on November 29, 2016


They even have their own song
posted by cirhosis at 10:34 AM on November 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wow. Living things that will survive us and what we do to the planet. This is very comforting! I'm now picturing them driving around the smoking ruins we will inevitably leave in tiny chariots driven by teams of cockroaches.
posted by eggkeeper at 11:34 AM on November 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


"cute"

You do you, man. You do you.
posted by cooker girl at 1:22 PM on November 29, 2016


The number and verisimilitude of plushies for this thing is franky amazing:

Realish and cute.
Fakish and cuter.
Realistic and "nope!"
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:37 PM on November 29, 2016


After a few years of membership and well over a decade of lurking, my moment of glory arrives!

I knew this day would come.

* rears up in wonder and looks around on stubby legs, rhabdomeric pigment-cup eyes aglow.
posted by tardigrade at 2:50 PM on November 29, 2016 [34 favorites]


Although I am a scientist and spent every damn day looking into a microscope, when I first heard this I couldn't resist grabbing some moss and looking for water bears. And there they were! I kept them for months in a Petri dish with moss and rotifers and protozoa and amoebae and stentors and all those microscopic critters I used to read about as a kid. It was like being 9 years old again, but with a better microscope.
posted by acrasis at 5:00 PM on November 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


They can withstand temperature ranges from 1 K (−458 °F; −272 °C) (close to absolute zero) to about 420 K (300 °F; 150 °C)
I'm assuming the low temperature limit is because their lab didn't have a colder fridge, not because they died below 1K. There are at least two orders of magnitude of absurd tardigrade temperature extreme science just sitting there waiting for a silly person with some extra space in their dilution fridge. Hmmmmm.
posted by eotvos at 9:32 PM on November 29, 2016




You do you, man. You do you.

aw cmon those little feets and the retracting snout thing are adorable
posted by juv3nal at 9:48 PM on November 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Tardigrade mating is strange... Foreplay is involved.
posted by Segundus at 10:21 AM on December 4, 2016


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