Unique Creatures of Earth: Tardigrades
Ever thought what extraterrestrial life would look like? Or ever wondered what Earth was like billion years ago? Look no further as Earth is filled with most beautiful and extraordinary creatures that make biologists scratch their heads. Among such magnificent creatures, “Tardigrades” appears to be on whole another level.
These fluffy looking creatures look more like alien than a normal alien due to their unique appearance. They are also called “water bears” and “mosses piglets”. There are more than thousand species of these creatures.
When it comes to general appearance, these animals look like a mixture of worm, spider, duck-tailed platypus and a bear. However, don’t let their fluffy appearance fool you, as they are covered with hard shells of cuticle, just like exoskeleton of lobster and crabs, which makes these animals bodies extremely strong. The have bulky main body with eight legs attached. Below legs, one can observe four to six claws and a mouth with tiny sharp teeth. They are said to be good swimmers as they have body perfect for water environments.
Tardigrades were first described by German pastor J.A.E Goeze in 1773, who called them “Kleiner Wasserbar”, which means “little water bear” in German.
Sad thing for pet lovers, these animals are microscopic, so small that they cannot be observed by naked eye. In fact, they are so small that few of them can easily fit into a single grain of salt. Most of them range from 0.3 to 0.5 mm.
As far as their size goes, a high-powered electron microscope is required to study their movement and structural details.
When it comes to the that “where do these awesome creatures live?”, the exact answer is often not definite, as these creatures can survive literally anywhere, ranging from aquatic habitats to vacuum of outer space! Not only that, they can survive hardest pressures of the deepest trench of the oceans and highest altitudes of the atmosphere. Facing extreme temperatures, either above boiling point or below freezing point, is “walk in the park” for these creatures.
Scientists say that catastrophic events, which are fatal to humanity like volcanic eruptions, asteroid collision, nuclear explosions etc. cannot kill these creatures. Some scientists say that these creatures will survive longer than mankind.
This is because these creatures can undergo a state called “cryptobiosis”, in which they fold themselves to become inactive for a long time, until they are awakened when conditions are favorable. Due to such wonderful features they have, these creatures have survived five mass extinctions. It means that these are oldest living creatures on Earth, and are nearly indestructible.
When it comes to their diet, these animals feed on fluids of other organisms like algae, lichens, mosses etc. As there are over thousand species of these creatures, some species are pure carnivores, and can even feed on other Tardigrades.
The thing is, we try to discover something new and unique, and wonder how life would be across stars or in the prehistoric past, denying the fact that we have such magnificent creatures living within our communities. We such always have spirit of searching and investing our time and energy in coming to know such creatures. After all, about 70% of our earth’s deepest trenches of ocean are left untouched. We don’t know what lies ahead of our imaginations, until we decide to explore further.
Written by: Anas Farhan Awan