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MICROSCOPIC TARDIGRADES: TINY BUT TOUGH ANIMALS ON EARTH

Tardigrades, most fascinating animals so far in science, able to stay alive in just about all environments imaginable. Nunataks are bio-networks in the Antarctic where the wind below away ice and snow, revealing rock outcrops, and the only things that survive on them are tardigrades and lichens.

INTERESTING?

This article is going to cover every fact about these tiny yet tough tardigrades. Keep reading!

Tardigrades, usually called moss piglets or water bears, are microscopic animals with scrunched-up heads and elongated, plump bodies. They have eight hands with 4-8 claws on each and eight legs as well. While oddly cute, almost comical appearance, these tiny animals are nearly immortal and can even survive from starvation to radiation.

  • Species

No doubt, biologists have recognized tardigrades since the dawn of the microscope; they just began to understand how these extraordinary amazing creatures are surviving anywhere. These studies have found over 1,000 known species of tardigrade worldwide. 

  • Size

The tardigrade looks like the hookah-smoking caterpillar from the movie Alice in Wonderland. Their size range from 0.05 mm to 1.2 mm but generally their length does not increase from 1 mm.

HOW ARE THEY SURVIVING ANYWHERE?

Most microscopic animals require water to survive, or else they can evaporate away without water.

But this is not the case with tardigrades.

While after been removed from the water and dried out, they transform themselves into a cellular fortress. This situation is called a Tun, in which they tuck their head and legs and form a compact pill shape. In this state, they produce Glycerol and secret a sugar Trehalose. When this trehalose crystalizes, these creatures become mummified in a crystal suit of armor.

  • Habitat

Tardigrades can live just about everywhere. They choose to live on damp pieces of moss, sediment at the bottom of a river, or other misty environments. They can live in an extensive range of temperatures and conditions. 

They can withstand extreme cold environments as well as hot environments. The lowest temperature they can survive is minus 328 degrees F. And the highest is approximately 300 degrees F.

They can survive boiling liquids, radiations, and pressure (six times as deep as the lowest part of the ocean). 

According to a space review, tardigrades survive space as well. They withstand Solar Winds, subzero temperatures, and vacuum for days. Any other species could die in minutes if exposed to such an environmental condition. The reason I call them toughest. 

  • Diet

They survive on liquids. They get the juice from lichens, algae, and moss. Studies have shown that some species are carnivores as they prey on other tardigrades. 

  • Tardigrades sexual reproduction

As I claimed to mention everything about tardigrades, how can I miss how they mate, right?

Though tardigrades have been examined for almost 245 years and more than 1000 species have been identified, there are a few journals regarding the mating behavior of tardigrades.

A study filmed 30 tardigrade couples during the sexual process. The results showed video evidence on how the sexual process happens. 





Mainly, the male tardigrade (at the bottom of the diagram) coils around the female’s head and stay there with the help of his front legs. Then, the female tardigrade stimulates the male by moving her stylets (mouth-like openings) and tightening the sucking pharynx.

The notices time of this process was about an hour, in which semen ejaculated many times. 

Now we can have an idea about why the animal has impress abilities.

  • Offspring

Tardigrades produce offspring by both sexual and asexual reproduction. They can lay on to 30-35 eggs at once. The sexual reproduction, the females lay eggs, and males fertilize them.

In asexual reproduction, their eggs will develop without fertilization.

  • Classification

The Tardigrade phylum can be defined in the following categories.

  1. INFRA-KINGDOM: Protostomia
  2. SUB-KINGDOM: Bilateria
  3. KINGDOM: Animalia
  4. PHYLUM: Tardigrada
  5. SUPERPHYLUM: Ecdysozoa
  • The Tardigrade phylum can be defined in the following categories.
    • 5 orders
    • 20 families
    • 3 classes
    • 1,018 species
    • 67 subspecies
    • 4 subgenera
    • 105 genera

According to National Geographic, tardigrades have survived five extinctions of other species over the course of half a billion years. They are not in the list of the endangered species list.

  • They have sharp teeth that can be used to grab on food.
  • They can swim. Their many legs propel them forward to reach the food.
  • They have a thin water coating around their body that prevent turning into a tun.
  • When in extreme conditions, they lose that water coating and go into tun state. 

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