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Tardigrades - the emotional footprint

In a not-too-serious analogy we are going to illustrate an emotional tardigrade footprint, similar to the ubiquituous human carbon dioxide footprint. You see, we are simply talking about the emotional impact of the tardigrades on us humans. The topic is split up into three parts:

(1) Our personal tardigrade relationship
(2) Historical tardigrade centered emotions
(3) Present day tardigrade centered emotions

(3) Present day tardigrade centered emotions

In fact it is terribly difficult to cast animal-directed emotions into verbal format without appearing to be over-sentimental and intellectually underexposed. The German language has a special word dedicated to perceptions which interpret animal behaviour as (partially) human. It is called "Vermenschlichung" and clearly meant to express something negative.

We are not perfectly sure whether the English counterpart "humanization" is coming along with the same negative burden - but "Vermenschlichung" definitely marked a red rag for serious biologists over many decades.
Possibly the fear behind this has its roots in (many) religions and philosophical views most of which are narrowly centered around human beings. They have a history of telling the story of human supremacy vs. a combined intellectual zero-sum of all animals.

Besides, there can be no doubt that an exaggerated love of animals might be equivalent to mental disease. Agreed.

Let's look at such a borderline case. On the Quora Website we came across the following question: "Can I have a pet tardigrade?". The Quora answer was something like: "A pet tardigrade might be difficult to manage but not fully impossible." Well, you see, Quora is a kind of intellectual website indicating that in the world of science nothing is impossible.

Though the answer to the Quora question is not easy we would like to give it a slighty different bias, e.g.: "In case you should accept that a tardigrade cannot be manually caressed but be looked at and admired - like an aquarium fish - and in case that should be enough for you, then the answer is 'yes' ".

But there are also Quora questions which let us look deeply into the abyss of human souls, e.g.: "Did someone try to dissect a tardigrade?". This reminds us of big-game hunting (proximity by means of killing your counterpart). Besides, the dissection of a tardgrade with its liquid body volume will provide little scientific insight, possibly none at all.

Perhaps it is less complicated to step down from high-brow philosophy and to simply accept that tardigrades are interesting, ubiquituous, typically glass-transparent micro animals the lives and deaths of which we can study by means of a microscope.

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Fig.: Three tardigrade eggs, as deposited by an Echiniscus female. The egg in the medium position is slightly advanced in its development as it has achieved its first cell division, whereas the right egg is in an early stage of this division. The various stages of egg development were documented in earlier issues of our magazine, see e.g. here.

Our readers sent many emotional e-mails during the previous decades. Just have a look at the following examples:

"When I have children, I'll definitely be calling them moss bears."

"If tardigrade worship is wrong, I don't wonna be right."

"I have fallen in love with this unique creature, tardigrade, Karkunhainen, as we say in Finland."

"Your stimulating page about water bears inspired me to get lyrical about these excellent creatures."

Further hints toward animal-emotional literature:

Helen Scales: Poseidon's steed - The story of seahorses, from myth to reality. New York 2009. [very good and very emotional ;-)]

Till Hein: Crazy horse - launische Faulpelze, gefräßige Tänzer und schwangere Männchen - Die schillernde Welt der Seepferdchen. mare Verlag, Hamburg 2021.
[in German, for those who are able to understand this language ... ]

© 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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