Friday, September 28, 2012

Water Horses & Water Babies? What about Waterbears!

"Waterbear" is the cute name for Tardigrades - those indominable little water creatures that can go anywhere and come back for more - well, almost anywhere.

They can survive wide ranges of environmental conditions - from very cold temperatures (almost to absolute zero) to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Are you kidding me!  They can survive without water for close to 10 years by entering a suspended metabolic state called cryptobiosis, even though they live in water.  They must be related somehow to the world famous sea-monkeys!  (Oh, no! Could this possibly be another blog post?)

They can also withstand, at least for a while, very wide pressure ranges - from an absolute vacuum to the 6,000 atmospheres you'd find at the bottom of the deepest part of earth's oceans.  They are so resilient that just a year ago a bunch of them spent 10 days in open space on an ESA satellite, and upon their return, half of them went on about their business as if nothing had happened.  Of course, the half that were unshielded from dosages of the sun's UV rays at 1,000 times stronger than here on earth didn't fare too well, but reportedly even some of them made it to live another day.

While they're nicknamed "waterbears" and I've played off the other water creatures in the title of this post (that I've blogged about earlier) I'm NOT going to put this article under the "Water folklore" label because these dudes are real.  In fact, science has been studying them since 1773 when a German scientist first called them "kleiner Wasserbar" - little water bears.  I shudder to think how many of these guys I've guzzled down in my years of swimming in the Delaware Bay and elsewhere.  Then again, they look nutritious as all get-out.  Just the same, I'll try very hard to get these images out of my head!

No comments:

Post a Comment