water bears
February 24, 2003 12:40 PM   Subscribe

Strange is this little animal, because of its exceptional and strange morphology and because it closely resembles a bear en miniature. -- So says one of the first men to behold "water bears" or tardigrades as they are better known. Resembling a large gummy bear, or a bear walking on its claws, but measuring in at no larger than a few 100 microns, the tardigrade occupies its own phylum in the animal kingdom. Cuteness aside, they are also known for their extraordinary abilities to survive extreme conditions: Tardigrades can survive the process of freezing or thawing, as well as changes in salinity, extreme vacuum pressure conditions, and a lack of oxygen.
posted by vacapinta (17 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've never heard of these before, and now I want some as pets, I wonder if I grow a small patch of moss in my apartment if they just show up. Maybe there is a marketing opputunity for the new "sea monkey" here? Any takers?

(also, yay! vacapinta returns!)
posted by malphigian at 12:58 PM on February 24, 2003


"— lives nearby, including cities
— moves smoothly like a bear, has legs, claws, eyes, skin and muscles
— has the colour and surface texture of one of those sweet bear gums loved by children
— doesn't need to carry along a knife and fork as it has two in-built knives
— can revert to an "instant coffee"-dry state which resists storage in liquid nitrogen, contact with mineral acids, organic solvents, radioactive radiation and boiling water. After this kind of brute "scientific" scrutiny the miraculous creature is still able to return to normal life—it needs only a small droplet of water!"

Sounds like a creature Edward Gorey forgot to mention on "The Utter Zoo" (.pdf).
posted by 111 at 12:58 PM on February 24, 2003

Wow. These are cool. Thanks, Vacapinta...
posted by wanderingmind at 1:01 PM on February 24, 2003

Far be it from me to nitpick on such a great post, but shouldn't that be "resembling a small gummy bear"?
posted by hippugeek at 1:08 PM on February 24, 2003

I've always been fascinated by these. When I was about 8, there was a great TV show about the strange and alien lifeforms to be found in a typical British back garden, and this creature was one of them (they like drains). And cute too.
posted by plep at 1:12 PM on February 24, 2003

Sure, they're cute, but this might be a bit much.

(when I have children, I'll definitely be calling them "moss piglets")
posted by Samsonov14 at 1:51 PM on February 24, 2003

Cute, my ass... I'm afraid to find something like this crawling around my place. My skin is crawling.

Neat info, though. Thanks for sharing these links.
posted by lnicole at 2:37 PM on February 24, 2003

This is a great, informative, offbeat, kinda creepy post. Thanks vacapinta.
posted by Hildago at 2:52 PM on February 24, 2003

great and interesting post! fascinating.
posted by sixtwenty3dc at 2:54 PM on February 24, 2003

when the going gets tough, the tardigrade simply takes a nap until times are better. so whether its troubles be nuclear fallout, overdue library books or prolonged exposure to michael bolton, the tardigrade can handle it

I loves me some moss piglets. They're really cugly.
posted by iconomy at 4:27 PM on February 24, 2003

shouldn't that be "resembling a small gummy bear"?

Yes. I noticed that and a couple other typos after I hit Post.
Be sure also to check out the movie section of Microscopy-UK with movies of rotifers and dustmites and lice!
posted by vacapinta at 5:20 PM on February 24, 2003

What an interesting little critter. At 1mm (for the biggest) they should be viewable with the naked eye (esp. if you're near sighted.) Thanks for the link vacapinta!
posted by wfrgms at 6:11 PM on February 24, 2003

Tardigrades... have a spear-like mouth part called a "stylet" that they use to pierce their prey and suck their juices as though through a straw.

The ability of terrestrial tardigrades to undergo cryptobiosis has led some to suggest that they could be transferred by Panspermia - that is, between different planets via meteorites.

Such statements would almost inspire someone to make a joke about hailing our new arthropod ruling class with open arms. Not me, mind you... but someone.
posted by taz at 10:27 PM on February 24, 2003

Ah yes, the Tardigrades.......Are these any relation to the "Retrogrades"?

And isn't time now for a post on those little mites which, I was told, come out every night (from wherever they hide out during the day) to dance around on my face and feast on skin flakes and sebum oozing from my pores?
posted by troutfishing at 4:57 AM on February 25, 2003

You mefi'd the main link
posted by chiheisen at 5:34 AM on February 25, 2003

I, for one, welcome our new tardigrade overlords.
posted by zadcat at 6:09 PM on February 25, 2003

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