extreme survivors
October 25, 2007 11:21 AM   Subscribe

The world’s toughest animal. Tardigrades, are sometimes called water bears [embedded video] or moss piglets. They are the coolest things on 6 to 8 legs and are able to survive in extreme environments that would kill almost any other animal. Freeze them, boil them, dry them, expose them to open space & radiation - after 200 years they'll still be alive! And some have just come back from a a rocket trip.


Breaking news, tardigrave genome to be sequenced.

If you click on the images there are details.

Video and more details.

A little microscopic movie with music.

Wikipedia entry for Tardigrada

Heimlich in A Bug’s Life

Excerpt from Stephen Jay Gould about their procreation.

What is an extremophile?
posted by nickyskye (37 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
So nuking from orbit is no way to be sure?
posted by DU at 11:25 AM on October 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

what an excellent post! thanks nickyskye.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:44 AM on October 25, 2007

So nuking from orbit is no way to be sure?

Game-over, mayn!
posted by cowbellemoo at 11:45 AM on October 25, 2007

I've always wanted to put together some kind of Sci-Fi plot that involved technology based around these creatures. Like computers or probes that used them as a part of their processing power.
posted by quin at 11:46 AM on October 25, 2007

Didn't I see one of these in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?
posted by MtDewd at 11:50 AM on October 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure that my nightmares look rather like that.
posted by shmegegge at 11:51 AM on October 25, 2007


But even the mighty Tardigrades are no match for Deinoccoccus Radiodurans. Hell, this bug prefers nuclear and toxic waste.
posted by Bletch at 11:52 AM on October 25, 2007

...so, like I slept with this girl. I was at a party, drunk, and the first girl I liked totally dumped on me and then this girl came along and though I'm not that kind of guy we totally hooked up for a one night stand. And she said I could do it without a condom because condom's are, like, a total hassel and damn if she didn't give me a wicked wicked case of I dunno, the doctor said something like 'strange berry that withstands radiation' or something latin that sounds like dino radio and now I'm gonna start a blog about it and ...

shit, sorry, a little thread-bleed prob. there... Dude, sweet post, Tardibears rock. Could she have given me those too?
posted by From Bklyn at 12:05 PM on October 25, 2007

Heimlich was a caterpillar (remember when he got his little wings?)

That said, tardigrades are very cool. One of my geeky friends has a fantastic tattoo of one.
posted by nekton at 12:16 PM on October 25, 2007

...There are probably hundreds just a few meters from where you are standing. They aren't as publicized as they should be...

Really? Because I was a lot happier before this was publicized.
These little guys are better suited for nightmares (I'm with you, shemegegge) than cute overload.
posted by bassjump at 12:21 PM on October 25, 2007

These things make it seem completely plausible that life on this planet came from space. It also seems plausible that a meteor impact could send these guys shooting off into the cosmos, and a few of them could land in the right spot and seed life elsewhere.
posted by mullingitover at 12:31 PM on October 25, 2007

Yeah Bletch, but that blob doesn't have little legs, a nose or get called moss piglet. The frightening and cute at the same time factor is missing there. But they might be friends if they hung out together in Chernobyl along with the fungi who chomp on radiation. :)

I know Heimlich was a caterpillar, but he looks like a tardigrade and apparently tardigrades are colorful as Gummi Bears, so I just put that Heimlich in there for fun, and sort of what a tardigrade might look like if we could see the rascals well with our eyes. Was sorely tempted to put in a Sea Monkeys video too but with great effort edited that link.
posted by nickyskye at 12:33 PM on October 25, 2007

More extremophiles!

Archaea Strain 121 at 112 degrees celcius
Acidophiles in New Mexico at pH 0.0 (battery acid)
Alkaliphilic bacteria at pH 11 (ammonia)
D.radiodurans at 1.5 million rads (1000 times lethal for humans)
Purple bacteria growing in 25% NaCl by weight (I get these kinds of bugs growing in concentrated salt solutions in the lab)
Methane Ice Worms (methane/ice mixtures), bugs in undersea brine lakes, bugs in hydrothermal sulfur-belching vents at hundreds of degrees C, bugs in undersea lakes of liquid carbon dioxide (unbelievable)

"Life always finds a way" - Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park
posted by Bletch at 12:36 PM on October 25, 2007

There is a song about the waterbear. A prof I know and his lab members infected me with this song, which burrowed itself into my brain and existed there for way too long. Listen at your own peril.
posted by not_on_display at 12:42 PM on October 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

Water Bear by Mal Webb. He's an...interesting...fellow, I saw him live in small town in Ireland.
posted by beowulf573 at 12:45 PM on October 25, 2007

any hints anywhere about how the rocket trip turned out for the tardigrades? the blog journal cited in the fpp hasn't been updated since October 4th from what i can tell...
posted by saulgoodman at 1:05 PM on October 25, 2007

Wow. Cute.

I think one of those fuckers is floating around in my eye though...
posted by Skygazer at 1:09 PM on October 25, 2007

saulgoodman, all I could find was this, "Only in-depth analysis will reveal the full extent of the scientific return of the mission, although data received during the flight already shows promising results."

And not_on_display, that song rocks!
posted by nickyskye at 1:15 PM on October 25, 2007

Moss piglets! Who could resist roaming primaeval microscopic forests with their adorable moss pigs in search of the rare and delectable moss truffle.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:20 PM on October 25, 2007

We have met their like before:
"This is one of the out-of-the-way places, the unvisited places, bleak, wasted, dying. This is a farmhouse, handmade, crude, a house without electricity or gas, a house untouched by progress. This is the woman who lives in the house, a woman who's been alone for many years, a strong, simple woman whose only problem up until this moment has been that of acquiring enough food to eat, a woman about to face terror which is even now coming at her from ... the Tardi Zone."
Link to episode description (Season 2, Episode 15, "The Invaders")
posted by rob511 at 1:57 PM on October 25, 2007

I wonder if they taste like gummi bears.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 2:06 PM on October 25, 2007

Whoa, mullingitover: all this time science fiction writers have been imagining the Ancients as a benevolent humanoid race, seeding the galaxy with life and burying black monoliths, when all along they were microscopic Gummi Bears. That's sincerely awesome.

(LOLWaterBear image I'm too lazy to actually make: "OMG We Is Full Of Starz!")
posted by Ian A.T. at 2:51 PM on October 25, 2007

they're adorable.
posted by juv3nal at 2:58 PM on October 25, 2007

OMG We Is Full Of Starz!


and seed life elsewhere

It'll be interesting what the genome people come up with playing around with gummi bear DNA. A Craig Venter with claws?!
posted by nickyskye at 3:12 PM on October 25, 2007

This prompted me to do a tiny bit of reading on extremophiles and I learned that contrary to popular belief, the dead sea isn't actually so. Very cool post by the way.
posted by SBMike at 4:20 PM on October 25, 2007

posted by Area Control at 4:26 PM on October 25, 2007

Can't kill 'em, how do they die? Ennui?
posted by IndigoJones at 4:45 PM on October 25, 2007

I am impressed by their amazing ability to survive--well, nearly everything, according to that first link. Never mind the cockroaches, it'll be the tardigrades who take over after the nuclear bomb goes off.

I think someone should market these guys like Sea Monkeys. Tardigrades are way more adorable than brine shrimp.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:10 PM on October 25, 2007

Sea Monkeys are very likable though. At least one can see them with the naked eye, they swim around quite gracefully and sit on seaweed branches. I'm not sure what tardigrades do besides munching on algae. Maybe they frolic in the moss?
posted by nickyskye at 7:40 PM on October 25, 2007

They even have their own Facebook group now. Tardigrades, not Sea Monkeys. Though the Sea Monkeys might have one too. We're not friends. *emo tear*
posted by jokeefe at 8:02 PM on October 25, 2007

"*emo tear*", Had to google. Love it. Gee, the things one learns here. Tardi Facebook link, pls?
posted by nickyskye at 9:27 PM on October 25, 2007

Very interesting post, as always, nickyskye! When my son was younger, he heard about water bears on a television science show, but he misunderstood some of the salient points and thought that they were large enough to be pets. He begged me for weeks to get him a water bear "to play with" lol.
posted by amyms at 12:39 AM on October 26, 2007

Could we have left a few on the moon?
posted by iamck at 6:41 AM on October 26, 2007

I, for one, welcome our new water bear overlords.
posted by tadellin at 12:55 PM on October 26, 2007

I want to collect a few billion and send them to a crash landing on Mars.

Fuck you, establishment. I'm terraforming with or without you.
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:13 PM on October 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Here's the Facebook group, with only eight select members: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=6495483265&ref=mf
posted by jokeefe at 12:09 PM on October 27, 2007

Oops, sorry, going back and forth between Mefi and a board that does autmatic formatting for urls. Facebook group is here.
posted by jokeefe at 12:10 PM on October 27, 2007

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