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Nobody is really perfect

Already in the classical tardigrade literature of the 1920s and 1930s we can find descriptions of tardigrade handicaps. In particular the German tardiologist Ernst Marcus mentions broken stylets. Just have a look at our respective photomicrograph in the  previous issue  of the  Water Bear web base.
A broken stylet might imply a temporary tough (hungry) period for the tiny tardigrade. But the stylet as a rule will be perfectly replaced by a new one during the next moulting phase.

Broken stylets must be interpreted as results of accidents that might occur to every tardigrade. But, in a similar way as man and other highly developed organisms not all tardigrade individuals are physically equipped in the same degree of perfection already at the moment of birth. And, there seems to be very little information on this topic in the scientific literature.

Claw growth imperfections e.g. can be seen from time to time. Those tardigrades will still be able to move normally and to feed normally. Just have a look at the following photomicrograph:

[ tardigrades (tardigrada), handicapped ]

Detail: tardigrade with claw imperfection.

From time to time, when looking at big tardigrade populations under the microscope we come across more seriously handicapped individuals as well.
In rare cases we will see tardigrades that are limping:

[ Bärtierchen (Tardigrada), Behinderungen ]

Limping tardigrade.
The red arrow points to a shortened leg.

Dark field illumination.

At higher magnification we notice that the shortened leg has no claws at all:

[ tardigrades (tardigrada), handicapped ]

Limping tardigrade with one shortened leg. Detail, medium magnification.

[ tardigrades (tardigrada), handicapped ]

Limping tardigrade with one shortened leg. Detail, high magnification.

But life tends to go on - sometimes - though possibly a little bit more complicated:

[ tardigrades (tardigrada), handicapped ]

Tardigrade (detail in front view):
one serious leg imperfection - compare the normal leg on the opposite side of the body. Nevertheless this individual is moving lively and has a stomach perfectly filled with green moss juice.

© 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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