The View from a Drawbridge

The random musings of a bridgetender with entirely too much time on her hands.

Whenever we humans get too full of ourselves, which is quite often, I tend to want to point out that in many ways we are inferior to the tardigrade. This microscopic creature is the epitome of the survivor. It can live in temperatures below freezing, above boiling, and in the vacuum of space as well as the deep pressure of the ocean. It can go 10 years without water. Fossils have been found (although I’d love to know how, given their diminutive size) from the Cambrian age, 530 million years ago.

And imagine this: even without banks and churches and cable TV and schools and corporations and Christmas and rush hour traffic, they seem to be thriving. We’ve so far identified 1,150 species of tardigrade, or water bears. If you want to see some, simply get some moss or lichen, a little water, and a low powered microscope. They’ll be there.

What I love most about tardigrades is that we probably encounter them in the thousands every day without knowing it, and yet when we see pictures of them they seem like aliens from outer space. Since they are so small we can go about our business without even being aware of them, but maybe they feel the same way about us. We’re so large there’s no point in even contemplating our existence.

To me they look like they’ve stolen the suit off the Michelin Tire Man, but it’s slightly too big for them, and they have human looking “hands” although they let their nails grow way too long. And eight legs? What’s up with that? What’s the point? Apparently they’ve added two since the Cambrian age, so they must have felt there was one.

The fact that there are tardigrades in the world gives me a great deal of comfort. It means that life goes on with or without our input or effort, and that the world is unfolding as it should. So everything is going to be all right.

Water Bear

Tardigrade.

[Image credit: nasa.gov]

michelin tire man

Michelin Tire Man

4 thoughts on “Timeless Tardigrades

  1. Betti says:

    I am so thrilled you posted this! I watched a recent episode of cosmos where Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson talked about them. I wanted to do more research but didn’t catch what he called them. Thank you for this!

    1. You’re very welcome. I LOVE Neil Degrasse Tyson. 🙂

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