Friday, November 4, 2011

Backyard Bears

Well, ok, maybe not a bear with black fur and big sharp teeth, but a "bear" none the less. It's called a water bear, or more correctly, a tardigrade.

Today started out quite frosty and chilly, but warmed into such a lovely day, my son and I decided to take the dogs for a walk in the greenbelt behind our house. While out and about, we brought some empty beakers to fill with pond water which we could study under our microscope when we got home.

To my delight, in that drop of water I found one of my absolute favorite animals... the tardigrade. These little critters (less than 1mm in size) actually look like bears: they have a lumbering gate, sharp claws on their feet (however, unlike a fluffy black bear, the tardigrade has eight feet), have eyes, skin, and muscles. Amazingly, tardigrades can survive -200C temps, boiling water, the vacuum of space, lack of oxygen, lack of water, freezing and thawing, x-ray radiation. In fact, tardigrades have been launched into space on a rocket and the space shuttle, and became the first animals to survive exposure to space. 

If you have a chance, and access to a decent microscope, why not go bear hunting in your backyard!

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