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Halechiniscus cuticula - as seen in detail (II)

Just to remind you - that's what our Halechiniscus sp. marine tardigrades looked like before they were superseeded by those myriads of black sea water mites:

[ Halechiniscus sp. from the Croatian island Krapanj: total view ]

Halechiniscus sp. marine tardigrade from the Krapanj island (Croatia). Head region. Image width ca. 100 µm.

The only remains left are a few photographs of the cuticulae left after moulting. This might appear as a rather meager souvenir of those previously very vivid and agile marine tardigrades.

But, when seeing things in proper perspective, virtually all marine souvenirs are merely fragments of something previously vivid: just think about those millions of deplorable dried seahorses, dried starfishes, empty shells, sepia cuttlebones etc. So there is no reason to be ashamed of our findings ;-). Let's instead have a look at the fine structure of a cirrus in the cuticula head region:

[ Halechiniscus sp. cuticula: detail view with cirrus ]

Halechiniscus sp. cuticula. The detail view is showing a cirrus in the head region of the tardigrade. Obviously this is not just a primitive bristle but moreover some kind of elaborate sensory instrument (a true nano-sensor!).

As we are dealing with an inanimate object we can focus closer without annoying a live tardigrade and take a look at the foot of the Halechiniscus sp. cuticula:

[ Halechiniscus sp. cuticula: detail view of a foot ]

Halechiniscus sp. cuticula. Detail view of a foot. The fine structure appears to be made up of some kind of parrot beak form, harder inlay material. The length of the claws is about 10 µm, their diameter just one or two µm.

The presumably different material of the claws is showing a nice contrast when seen by help of polarized light: probably it is made of some kind of complex protein bound, calcitic material:

[ Halechiniscus sp. cuticula: detail view of a foot as seen under polarized light ]

Halechiniscus sp. cuticula. Detail view of a foot, polarized light.

And, when approaching the limits of light microscopic resolution, we can perceive a bizarre spiral twist in the toe structure as well:

[ Halechiniscus sp. cuticula: detail view of a foot at high magnification ]

Halechiniscus sp. cuticula. Detail view of a foot of the last pair of legs. Please note the twists in the toes. Toe length ca. 10 µm. High res image at maximum magnification, oil immersion objective.

Okay, we are leaving the marine tardigrades' topic now. And some of our readers will air a sigh of relief when hearing this - as marine tardigrades are more difficult to access and more difficult to study.

© 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.

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