Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Missouri's Smallest Bears

SEM image of Milnesium tardigradum in active state - journal.pone.0045682.g001-2.png
Scanning electron microscope view of a tardigrade - Wikipedia
Linda Bower found some "water bears" (tardigrades) in a spoonful of farm pond water/muck and has been filming their antics. These are tiny, water-dwelling, eight-legged, segmented animals ranging from 0.05 millimeters to 1.2 mm (0.002 to 0.05 inches) long.  From Livescience.com*:
"Tardigrades, often called water bears or moss piglets, are near-microscopic animals with long, plump bodies and scrunched-up heads. They have eight legs, and hands with four to eight claws on each. While strangely cute, these tiny animals are almost indestructible and can even survive in outer space. Tardigrades eat fluid to survive. They suck the juices from algae, lichens and moss. Some species are carnivores and even cannibals."
Their fame comes from their survival skills.  They are among the "Most Likely to Survive" contestants in the case of a catastrophic Earth event such as a massive asteroid strike.  Some of their survival records:
  • 300 degrees Fahrenheit (water boils at 212)
  • -328 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Pressure 6 times greater than the deepest part of the ocean.
More to the point, they are really cute!  Linda says of her recent Youtube video:
 “This footage offers a view of tardigrades moving freely among a variety of plankton. It is fun to watch them walking around underwater although they are too tiny to get much detail with my current equipment. Seeing how they move may help if you are going to try to find them yourself.”
The Livescience posting on tardigrades is an excellent overview of these cute yet indestructible critters including images and video links.