Whether you call them moss piglets, water bears, or microscopic manatees, tardigrades are mighty microscopic animals that look like tiny, strout rolly pollies with scrunched-up heads. Attached to their bodies are eight legs, and hands with four little claws. Even though they are little, they are truly tough. These tiny animals are almost indestructible and can survive time, pressure, and even outer space.
Our amazing earth is teeming with bacteria, and many of these organisms call some pretty inhospitable conditions their homes. From the depths of our oceans, to our dense forest floors, to the icy arctics, tiny animals do their best to survive harsh conditions and thrive.
Make your own tardigrade stuffed animal
Tardigrades have become popular all over the world. You can now even make your own tardigrade stuffed animal thanks to Budsies! Thanks to your drawings, tardigrades have been reimagined as much cuter and cuddly plush versions.
History of the tardigrade
They unique tardigrades have differentiated themselves by being the most robust and lasting animals on the planet. Incredibly enough, they are able to survive for up to 30 years without food or water and endure temperature extremes of up to 150 degrees Celsius. All that from a little creature that will only grow up to 1mm long.
Not all tardigrades dwell in water; some species live in moss and lichens on trees, which is why they are sometimes given the cute moniker “moss piglets” instead of “water bears”. Originally tardigrades were named by Italian biologist Lazzaro Spallanzani because it means “slow stepper”. Scientists have identified more than 1,000 species of tardigrades. About 150 types of marine tardigrade species have been identified and tough tardigrades have been revived from dried moss kept in a museum for over 100 years!
In 2007, the European Space Agency sent 3,000 animals into orbit where the tiny tardigrades survived for an amazing 12 days on the outside of the capsule, floating around in space! Go ahead and burn them, boil them, microwave them, and throw them out into the vacuum of space, they will not die. Water bears can also tolerate pressures 6 times the pressure at the bottom of the deepest oceans. And they manage to do all this while still being weirdly cute.
If that isn’t a reason to celebrate this lively microscopic organism, we don’t know what is! The resilience of what tardigrades have managed to accomplish is astounding. These “micro-animals” date back to almost 530 million years and they’re still going strong today. Scientists have found that their amazing flexible abilities could protect them from disasters which would wipe out all other life on Earth. In fact, the only events that are capable of harming tardigrades, like an asteroid, a giant exploding star or a gamma-ray burst will not happen before our own sun burns out.
But how do they do it? The water bear’s magic trick is an amazing adaptable process called cryptobiosis. This means that they slow down their metabolism to almost a full stop. In this state, it can dehydrate to three percent of its normal water content in a process called desiccation. But just add water and the tardigrade comes back to life and begins to eat and thrive again.
According to a new Oxford University collaboration, tardigrades are as close to indestructible as it gets on Earth, but it is possible that there are other resilient species examples elsewhere in the universe. This is exciting because there is a real case for looking for life on Mars and in other areas of the solar system in general. If Tardigrades are earth’s most resilient species, who knows what else is out there!
Do you want to have a tough resilient moss piglet that you can actually cuddle? Now you can make your own water bear stuffed animal! While actual tardigrades grow to be 1.5 mm long at most, Budsies’ custom stuffed animals are a full 16 inches, and you can make them any color you want! Budsies makes custom plush animals from any drawing, artwork or photo. Make yours now!
Boult, A. (2016, January 15). “Animal brought back to life after spending 30 years frozen.” Retrieved April 02, 2018, from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/12102714/Animal-brought-back-to-life-after-spending-30-years-frozen.html
European Space Agency. “Tiny animals survive exposure to space.” (n.d.). Retrieved April 01, 2018, from http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/Research/Tiny_animals_survive_exposure_to_space
Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College. “Tardigrades.” (2017, June 07). Retrieved April 01, 2018, from https://serc.carleton.edu/microbelife/topics/tardigrade/index.html
University of Oxford. “The Last Survivors on Earth.” University of Oxford, 13 July 2017. www.ox.ac.uk/news/2017-07-13-last-survivors-earth.