Oct 29, 2008

Polyextremophile

Time for a new word: polyextremophile. This means, in quasi-Greek, one who likes several extremes. I stumbled across this word while researching the water bear (Tardigrades).

Water bears are not only worthy of their own plush toy, but are marvels of biological engineering. They are microscopic (some species, of which more than a thousand have been described, can reach 1.5mm) plant or bacteria eaters. But what makes them stand out is their tolerance of extreme environments. They are unique in the animal world for being able to tolerate and sometimes even thrive under such conditions as: 303 degrees F (151 degrees C), altitudes of over 6000 meters, oceanic depths below 4000 meters, both poles, the equator, cold approaching absolute zero, 1,000 times more radiation than any other animal, and even the vacuum of space (a very useful trait for those water bear cosmonauts). They are found everywhere.

We can all learn a good lesson in tolerance from the water bear, my friends.

Is it just my twisted mind, or does all this talk of water bear toughness trigger thoughts in you about how you might go about killing one? Poor little water bear, you pose no threat, are invisible to the human eye, and were even endowed with an endearing name, and yet still you have at least one human contemplating your destruction.

Thanks for the new critter, Morgan.

15 comments:

Rasmus said...

I actually know a guy who does a phd on these critters.

Betsy said...

Oh, good. I'm not the only sick one out there. I was totally plotting their death even before you got to that point.

Anonymous said...

It would be ironic if the only thing that can kill them is honey.

Vanessa said...

Fantastic!
I am loving this site more and more with each entry. What a fascinating collage of creatures.
Fuzzy wuzzy water bear...
Fuzzy wuzzy needs no air...
Fuzzy wuzzy isn't fussy wussy?
So sorry, my apologies for that. I couldn't resist.

McGehee said...

I suspect that calling a water bear "cute" would kill it.

Of embarrassment if nothing else.

yvonnenavarro said...

Hmmmm. Not plotting to kill them at all. I was actually think they... and those da-- er, darned cockroaches, may be the only left alive on this planet someday.

Hey, I'm in a great and positive mood!

Anonymous said...

Awww...look at him walk. So cute!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ho2sPvza0oA

I wonder if they make stuffed animals of these...

Peter ├śrskov Madsen said...

I believe that a stuffed water bear plush toy would sell like crazy! Matel should look into this, as a substitute to Ken maybe

Keelamari said...

We should start a tardigrade plush petition. Seriously.

Marciepooh said...

I think Appa (from Avatar: The Last Airbender on Nickelodeon) looks an awful lot like a water bear.

Kit said...

I love waterbears. They're so random and hearty. But boy, I've never thought 'gee, what would it take to kill them!'. If only I could grow them like sea monkeys...

jenjen said...

Giantmicrobes.com is probably the most likely place to make a plush water bear. They do accept suggestions. suggestions@giantmicrobes.com

morgan said...

Totally just found someone who does custom orders and has made Tardigrades in the past. Like you folks, I have been wishin' and hopin' for one to come along myself... raging wombat has definitely failed to keep up the spirit of the site by posting such an indisputably adorable animal.

So if, uh, anyone wanted to get me something for Christmas... I'll just leave this here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/weirdbuglady/2459201631/

Raging Wombat said...

There is a plush of it! Must get me one.

Anonymous said...

They're out!
http://www.giantmicrobes.com/us/products/waterbear.html