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Maritime tardigrades (IV)

As a rule we are discussing the most minute invertebrates here. But there can be no doubt that a casual glance beyond the microscopy borderline might be rewarding, too. Just have a look at the engraving below. Most of us will have a strange feeling when looking at it. Possibly, cast in words, some might think: "Obviously we are not alone with our existential problems."

[ Giant calmar ]

Image: The French military steamship Alecton finds a giant calmar
The spectacular encounter happend on Nov. 30 1861, at about 2 p.m. It is testified by captain Bouyer and part of an official military report. Bouyer indicated the body length of the animal to range somewhere between 5 and 6 m (without tentacles). He guessed that its mass was ca. 2.000 kg. During the attempted lifting procedure the rope cut through the body of the calmar and it sank back into the ocean.
The more cynical readers will be not surprised that contemporary zoologists argued that an animal of this size was simply "impossible", despite of its testified existence. But, in any case this encounter was one of many steps in order to convince the public that "Jules Vernes type" animals are actually existing and that many of those seemingly phantastic reports are based on reality.

Once more we can study also in this case how Homo sapiens tends to behave when coming across closely related animals: the characteristic neighourhood signals were a dozen bullets directed into the head of the animal until it vomited blood and slime.

Remember, the big melancholic eyes are part of one of a most intelligent, highly communicative animal. Creation left little choice to it: in order to build up and maintain its impressive body mass it has to feed on myriads of other marine beings with the final perspective of being devoured itself in return in the end.

The giant calmar  Architeuthis  is one of the biggest invertebrates, depending on the exact definition it is the biggest invertebrate on earth or at least among the biggest, wheras the tardigrades are among the smallest invertebrates. Calmar and tardigrade mark extreme values one the animal size scale, so to speak relatives in extremity. But there are more parallels: both live in worlds that are in fact inaccessible for man and both show extraordinary characteristics. As an example we note one common property, the ability to anchor strongly on wet surfaces. The calmar is able to grasp almost everything by means of its sucker arms and some of the marine tardigrades have adhesive organs as well which allow them to anchor on wet glass without problems. Whereas the calmar uses vacuum Batillipes tardigrades apparently use under water glue. By the way, the genus name Batillipes can be translated from Latin as "shovel foot".

[ Batillipes tardigrade, toe with adhesive discs ]

Batillipes sp. tardigrade, detail: leg with adhesive discs.

Below we show how Batillipes fixes his toes on a wet slide and loosens them for the next step. We will have a closer look at the related phenomena in the next issue.

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© 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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