Written by Ananya Chakraborti, a grade 9 student
Tardigrades are eight-legged micro animals also known as water bears or moss piglets. They are the smallest animals of nature.
Tardigrade is a segmented microscopic animal also called a water bear or moss piglet. It has eight legs like a spider and grows around 0.5mm as an adult. Tardigrades can survive in extreme environments. Here’s a superb video on them.
Tardigrages were first discovered by German zoologist Johann August Ephraim Goeze. He first had named them Kleiner Wasserbär. Later, an Italian biologist (Lazzaro Spallanzali) named it Tardigrada, which means “slow steppers”.
What are they like?
They are the toughest animals on the earth. They can survive in space, inside a volcano, in the Arctic ice, and at the deepest point in the ocean – and are almost indestructible.
In unfavorable conditions, they go into a ‘tun’ state in which their bodies dry out and appear like a lifeless ball, in such a state their metabolism slows down to 0.01% as compared to their normal rate.
If Tardigrades stay in their dry state for a very long time their DNA gets damaged. But after reawakening, they can fix it quickly. They resemble cute miniature bears. They have pudgy bodies with scrunched heads. Also, their mouths are their weapons as they have sharp teeth. They also have eight legs with four claws on each of them.
They swallow the juices from algae, lichens, and moss. Some of the Tardigrades who are carnivores can also feed on other Tardigrades.
The life of a Tardigrade ranges from 3 – 4 months for some species and 2 years for other species. Tardigrades can live up to 30 years without food and water.
Tardigrades are the first animals to survive in outer space.
Read all about them going to space onboard a NASA rocket, here