Water Bears in the Trees

Some years ago, while reading Wasp Farm by Howard Ensign Evans, I remember being stung a little bit by his self-satisfaction at having seen a Tardigrade—I too wanted to see a Tardigrade. So this morning when @lfelliott posted a photo of a Tardigrade I decided to go looking for one.

How does one find a Tardigrade? Well, it's easier than you might think. @lfelliott's observation included a useful bit of information: his Tardigrade had been found on lichen. It was a simple task to retrieve a piece of lichen-encrusted bark from under our back yard White Ash. This was placed in a petri dish with some water. After letting it soak for a couple hours, the lichen was scraped off the bark into the water and the water examined under the microscope. The first moving things I spotted were nematodes or some other kind of tiny, clear worms. Then, after a little more searching, a Tardigrade.

Water Bear is a good name. However, after watching this one move in water for a while, I'm inclined to describe it more as a clumsy, eight-legged water hamster. They've also been called Moss Pigs. No matter what the name, Tardigrades are legendary for the extreme conditions they are known to survive. For starters, they can withstand temperatures as low as -200 °C (-328 °F) and as high as 150 °C (300 °F). Apparently they can also survive the vacuum of outer space. And they are radiation proof. And they survive near absolute desiccation. Pretty much indestructible.

After today's successful search, I now know that there are Water Bears in the trees (and pretty much everywhere else). And if someone asks me if I've ever seen a Tardigrade, I can now answer, Yes!

"Tardigrades: there is a frontier for you. Have you ever seen one? I may not know where to find the distributor in my car; I may stumble over the laws of thermodynamics; but I have seen a tardigrade!"
– Howard Ensign Evans, from Wasp Farm
Publicado por scottking scottking, 22 de janeiro de 2017, 04:27 AM


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