[Title fragment 1.1] [Title fragment 1.2] [Title fragment 1.3]
[Title fragment 2.1] [Title fragment 2.2] [Title fragment 2.3]
[Title fragment 3.1] [Title fragment 3.2] [Title fragment 3.3]

The most stupid tardigrade question?

As we are online since a few years (22 years) we received many mails, most of them very friendly, some very intelligent, some even flattering - thank you!

One might classify those many hundred mails into categories: e.g. we were often asked where to buy tardigrades for scientific or scholarly experiments.
In some of those "scientific" cases we tried to talk experimenters out of mass-killing their tardigrades by means of some sadistic method - extreme UV, high temperature, radioactivity - followed by some dumb killing score statistics. But don't get us wrong. This is perfectly understandable and possibly excusable. Teachers tend to ask for seemingly scientific procedures and we are well aware of the fact that many scientific results are based on brute force.

But still there is one tremendously silly mail question arising from time to time, namely "What are those tardigrades good for?"

[  ]

Fig.: "What are those tardigrades good for?"

We might take the question seriously, though with a wink and present some answers, of course: in some respects the usefulness of tardigrades appears quite questionable. It might be cumbersome to collect enough of them for a dish, and - when keeping in mind the tinyness of taedigrade eggs - omelettes and sunny-side down preparations will be possible only under a microscope equipped with a heatable stage. But the verdict might be even more negative: as the tardigrades are well known to feed on moss they could be considered as parasites, yes? But on the other hand, when thinking about a typical gardeners' fight against those mosses, the tardigrades might come in handy and help us avoid the use of algicide, right?
Besides, in case you should like bright sandy beaches, it would be worth while to note that marine tardigrades are actually feeding on microscopic algae on sand grains - thus helping to keep your beach tidy!

In recent years some remarkable direct commercial use ot tardigrades has arisen: the internet market. When looking around in the internet you will notice innumerable offers of tardigrade fan material - tardigrade figurines, tardigrade plush toys, tardigrade forage (not kidding!), DVDs with tardigrades as computer game actors, nature film DVDs, tardigrade T-shirts, tardigrade coffee mugs, tardigrade shopping bags etc. Moreover, the tardigrades are perfectly usable to fill magazines and YouTube productions in times where other cheap material is missing. Besides, scientific funding might be easier to achieve when some cuddly tardigrades are presented as the object of investigation or as a funny aside in respective PowerPoint presentations.

So, when considering all this, the initial question might be not as stupid as thought - funny, isn't it?

Annotations with respect to the illustration above
This montage is symbolic for human tardigrade scrutiny including tardigrade "usage" scrutiny, though it doesn't make tremendously sense to look a this kind of book illustration by means of a magnifier. In any case we should mention that the litho print shown was made by an unknown artist ca. 1867, i.e. more than 150 years ago. We do not know an earlier color representation of a tardigrade yet. The animal shown is clearly Ramazzottius oberhaeuseri, measuring 3 cm in length on the print. This implies is a ca. 100fold magnification with respect to the living being. Of course the historic 2x Busch company magnifier used here wouldn't be of any help when searching for real tardigrades outside. So it should be simply understood as a metaphor for human reasoning about the wonders of life in general.

© Text, images and video clips by  Martin Mach  (webmaster@baertierchen.de).
The 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.

Main Page