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Highly estimated and often stolen - the story of a good tardigrade image

All our patient readers (thanks!) will be aware of the fact that even the biggest tardigrades are veritable dwarfs to the bare eye. As a consequence we do not perceive a single water bear on a typical, densily populated moss djungle:

[ moss with many invisible tardigrades ]

Hidden life in the moss jungle - nothing can be seen at this magnification, no chance without the use of a microscope

Tardigrades are invisible to the bare eye and therefore some human individuals, in particular those with an economy-limited view, consider them as neglegible life. But, apart from economy there might be other motives to drop some words on water-bears, for example

--Zoologists cannot ignore one of the most widespread articulata animal though it appears to be very elusive in the permanent fight for clean systematics
--Anti-evolutionists like the tardigrades because they consider them as typical examples that seem to be unexplicable in the eyes of the evolutionist due to their apparent over-adaptation (who on earth needs the ability to survive at
--Nano science prophets are in constant search for popular publication material
--Sometimes teachers feel the need to demonstrate in the classroom that there might be worlds beyond the cellphone and starlet society

In general a good text is quickly written by a witted personality, but in our image-driven society there is a constant need for illustration, words are simply not enough.
So Bruno Schulz, a German writer in poor post-war Germany was hired to write an article about tardigrades in 1955, for an aquarium user's book. Bruno Schulz ended up with the understandable decision to use and copy an already existing image. But probably he was not aware of the fact that he made use of one of the most-copied tardigrade illustrations of all times:

[ tardigrade illustration copy, (B.Schulz, 1955)]

Tardigrade illustration copy by B. Schulz (1955)

Side views of tardigrades are rare, because we mostly will see the tardigrade in top or bottom view when looking through the microscope. In any case Schulz appears not to have used a similar publication by Ulmer (1913), as Ulmer's tardigrade lacked the dorsal bulges which are clearly visible on Schulz's picture. As a consequence we must assume that both, Schulz and Ulmer, made use of a common, still older tardigrade drawing. Ulmer definitely had not seen a tardigrade himself when publishing his image, as the pharyngeal bulb never extends until to the mouth opening of a tardigrade, there is always a buccal tube in between. So Ulmer's picture is far away from reality.

[ tardigrade illustration copy (G. Ulmer, 1913)]

Tardigrade illustration copy by G. Ulmer (1913)

Ulmer's wrong pharyngeal bulb can be found in Brauer's book of 1909 as well, with the pharyngeal bulb mistake already developping but still smaller. We therefore suspect that this drawing might have been been the common root for Ulmer and Schulz.

[ tardigrade illustration copy (A. Brauer, 1909)]

Tardigrade illustration copy by A. Brauer (1909)

Interesting to note that also Brauer's image has predecessors which again seem to relate to older originals. George Chandler Whipple, wastewater biologist in Boston, as well had been searching for a tardigrade illustration for his book on the microscopy of drinking water (1899) and published this illustration clone:

[ tardigrade illustration copy (G.C. Whipple, 1899)]

Tardigrade illustration copy by G.C. Whipple (1899)

In the year 1895 Lewis Wright used a similar drawing for his popular textbook about microscopy.

[ tardigrade illustration copy (L. Wright, 1895)]

Tardigrade illustration copy by L. Wright (1895)

Wright's image possibly was markedly inspired by Andrew Pritchard's image, 30 years earlier, or/and by a still "missing copy chain link". Wright developped the borderlines of the stomach into a perl chain structure and simplified the claw silhouettes to single lines.

[ tardigrade illustration copy (A. Pritchard, 1861)]

Tardigrade illustration copy by A. Pritchard (1861)

Pritchard was gentleman enough to quote Dujardin as the source for his image. In fact Dujardin's text is very specific and so the related illustration from 1838 earns the glory to be considered as the grandmother of the longest series of tardigrade illustration copies of all times.

The library of Saarland where we ordered a copy of the Dujardin article did clearly forbid the web use of the illustration - a funny rule when keeping in mind that it is the most copied tardigrade image of all times. But the older we grow the more we become used to live in a strange world. Perhaps this is one reason why life is so much fascinating.

[ original tardigrade illustration by L. Dujardin, 1838)]

Tardigrade illustration, original by Dujardin, 1838.
Not shown here for copyright reasons.

But, don't worry, you will be able to imagine what Dujardin's original image looks like as you have seen six copies from it. We would like to express our respect and apologies towards the late Prof. Dujardin who is the author of an excellent and therefore most-borrowed tardigrade image.


A. Brauer: Die Süßwasserfauna Deutschlands. Eine Exkursionsfauna.
Issue 12: Araneae, Acarina und Tardigrada. p. 186. Jena 1909.

F. Dujardin: Mémoire sur un ver parasite etc. ..., sur le Tardigrade etc. ... , in: Annales des sciences naturelles, sér. 2, vol. 10 (Zoologie), p. 175 - 191, table 2, Paris 1838.

A. Pritchard: A History of Infusoria, London 1861.

B. Schulz: Bärtierchen im Mikroaquarium. In: Aquarien und Terrarien. p. 139.
Leipzig 1955.

G. Ulmer: Aus Seen und Bächen. p. 76. Leipzig 1913.

G.C. Whipple: The Microscopy of Drinking Water. Table XIX. London, New York 1899.

L. Wright: A Popular Handbook to the Microscope. p. 167. London 1895.

© Text, images and video clips by  Martin Mach  (webmaster@baertierchen.de).
Water Bear web base is a licensed and revised version of the German language monthly magazine  Bärtierchen-Journal . Style and grammar amendments by native speakers are warmly welcomed.

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