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Feature Creature: Tardigrade

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Feature Creature: Tardigrade

Dr. Robert Berdan

Dr. Robert Berdan

Dr. Robert Berdan


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When one thinks of the most resilient being on earth, it’s unlikely the first thing that comes to mind is a microscopic eight legged aquatic animal, with a pudgy body and scrunched up face. Tardigrades are often referred to as water bears or moss piglets due to their appearance, and they are presumed to be a relative to other arthropods. The microscopic creature can live just about anywhere with its fast adapting, and robust body, and a nearly translucent body. These tiny water dwelling animals can live up to 30 years without food or water, and withstand extreme temperatures because of their resilience and survival methods. According to Britannica, Tardigrades survive by keeping themselves in a suspended state called the “tun” state, that leaves them in a dry, almost lifeless ball (also known as a “tun”). In this form, “water bears” are easily dispersed by wind and water while in this form, and can last as long as decades in the “tun” state until conditions are favorable again.
The Tardigrade anatomy is very similar to that of larger mammals, having a full alimentary canal and digestive system. As they grow, the water dweller sheds its cuticle like shell (almost like a snake), and to do so they eat natural fluids from materials like algae, lichens, and moss. When a “water bear” reproduces, it can do so sexually or asexually and can lay up to 30 eggs without fertilization.
Without its robust body, it’s no wonder the microscopic animal has lived to walk this planet for so long. While we may not be going to go through world extinction anytime soon, what we do know is that as long as the world is still spinning, the Tardigrade lives.
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