Tardigrades, also known as water bears, are microscopic animals with an aquatic eight-legged animal that typically grows no longer than one millimeter in length. Most tardigrades live out their days on a moist piece of moss or in the sediment at the bottom of a lake and feeding on bacteria or plant life.
These are strangely cute animals that are almost indestructible and can even survive in outer space. Here are some amazing facts about these weird, powerful creatures:
These creatures will remind you of the hookah-smoking caterpillar from “Alice in Wonderland.” They might range from 0.05 millimeters to 1.2 mm (0.002 to 0.05 inches) long, but they usually don’t get any bigger than 1 mm (0.04 inches) long.
2. The Reproduction
They reproduce through sexual and asexual reproduction, depending upon the species. They usually lay 1 to 30 eggs at a time. When they reproduce sexually, the females will lay the eggs, and the males will fertilize them. And during asexual reproduction, the female will lay the eggs, and then they will develop without fertilization.
3. Where do they live?
These creatures live almost anywhere. Generally, they live in sediment at the bottom of a lake, on moss or other wet environments. They are able to survive a wide range of temperatures and situations.
Researchers have found out that tardigrades can withstand environments as cold as minus 328 degrees Fahrenheit or highs of more than 300 degrees. They are also able to survive radiation, boiling liquids, massive amounts of pressure of up to six times the pressure of the deepest part of the ocean, and even the vacuum of space without any protection.
4. Their Habits
Researchers have discovered that these creatures survive in extreme conditions by making a transformation.
In many conditions, they survive by going into an almost death-like state that is known as cryptobiosis. They curl into a dehydrated ball, called a tun, by retracting their head and legs. After they are introduced in the water again, they can come back to life in just a few hours.
While in cryptobiosis, the metabolic activity gets as low as 0.01 percent of normal levels, and their organs are protected by a sugary gel called trehalose. They also seem to make a large number of antioxidants, which can also protect vital organs.
In 2016, scientists revived two tuns and an egg that had been in cryptobiosis for more than 30 years. The experiment was reported in the journal Cryobiology.
Tardigrades drink fluid to survive. They suck the juices from algae, lichens, and moss. Some species of these water bears are carnivores and even cannibals -they do feed on their own kind!
The water bear’s mouth can telescope outward to reveal sharp teeth that are used to grab onto food.
They swim! Their legs help them to swim
They should have at least a thin coating of water around their bodies to prevent turning into a tun.