Sunday, October 17, 2010


Soft sculpture by Weird Bug Lady
Recently my friend Karl sent me a link to the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity website which was highlighting "Species You Didn't Know Existed". It's a really interesting list. Even though I have a zoology degree and try to keep up with species discoveries lots of these were new to me. And even better... There is lots of information about critters that you may have heard of but know nothing about. One of these is the tardigrade, also know as water bears or moss piglets.

Tardigrades really are among the strangest creatures on the planet. They are microscopic, yet quite cute when viewed under magnification. They are almost transparent, have eight legs, little claws, and can withstand just about any insult researchers can throw at them.  Would you believe that they are just about indestructible when in the dehydrated resting state known as "tun"? It's true! These tiny weirdos have been frozen to just above absolute zero, shot into space, radiated, boiled alive, you name it. But stop the abuse, add water, and all is forgiven. The tardigrade continues about its business as if nothing has happened.

Brooches by Bobbie and Lola
These critters are so unlike us that they even have their own phylum. We are more closely related to sea squirts than to them! But that doesn't mean that we have nothing to learn from them. In fact, they make great research creatures. If you don't believe me, just watch this great video from Science Friday.

After seeing a photo of a tardigrade it's hard not to wish it was macroscopic so you could give it a hug. Luckily, some crafters have made squishy, personable stand-ins, like Weird Bug Lady's soft sculpture above, and Bobbie and Lola's brooches to the right.

Want to learn more? Check out the links here!


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