|The cutest symposium logo ever|
Well, they do have their own symposium. Or maybe its just a symposium devoted to research about them (the International Symposium on Tardigrada, taking place in Portugal this July). There are a lot of species to choose from too (around 1,150 at last count). And they do occur literally all over the world (deep in marine trenches, high in the Himalayas, in the sweltering tropics and at the frigid poles). But even so, surely they can't be more popular than, say, kittens? Or baby monkeys?
|Guests of honor at the Tardigrade Symposium|
I don't know, but I'm guessing it has something to do with assigned homework. Tardigrades are deeply strange (they're microscopic, adorable, crazy tough survival machines that can withstand the vacuum of space, temperatures near absolute zero, and pressures near 6,000 atmospheres) yet common. They make interesting research subjects that can teach us a lot about the limits of biology. Just the other day I read a news item about how a biomedical company is pioneering new ways of preserving DNA and RNA at room temperature, based on tardigrade chemistry.
Of course, some people may be looking for something else entirely when they stumble on my previous blog post. If you google "tardigrade" one of the first things that comes up is an article about how to impress your girlfriend's family over dinner. More than once it says "don't be a tardigrade". People may just be trying to figure out what the heck that could possibly mean.