January 16, 2016

Waterbears, frozen 30 years, alive again...

... and looking like they're wearing some puffy Gore-Tex coveralls. Microscopic things are freaky. Some of them, we've gotten used to, but seeing this waterbear makes me want to think about how Leeuwenhoek felt when he saw his "animalcules" for the first time:
He was delighted by his “little animals.” He wrote that “among all the marvels that I have discovered in nature, [these are] the most marvelous of all.” Later on he would declare: “From all these observations, we discern most plainly the incomprehensible perfection, the exact order, and the inscrutable providential care with which the most wise Creator and Lord of the Universe had formed the bodies of these animalcules, which are so minute as to escape our sight….”


traditionalguy said...

That is one mean looking animal. What was the size again?

TerriW said...

1 millimeter!

You can even keep them as pets. Surely a therapy tardigrade would be easier to travel with than a turkey.

Find and Care for a Pet Tardigrade

Fernandinande said...

Soviet(?) Tardigrade

Big Mike said...

Tardigrades are closely related to the Onychophora, which have been found in the Burgess Shale, a 508 myo fossil-bearing deposit that preserves soft body parts of ancient animals.

Original Mike said...

I've always liked Tardigrades. Thanks for the article, TerriW. I love drawing #10!

Original Mike said...

"Tardigrades are closely related to the Onychophora, which have been found in the Burgess Shale"

Interesting. I visited the Burgess Shale site in 1980 on a backpacking trip to Yoho. Didn't know anything about it at the time other than the topo map we had showed a "fossil bed" and we were hiking right by it.

F said...

Ok, so waterbears can revive after 30 years of freezing. Hillary's inspiration!

Paddy O said...

The Disney movie writes itself.

Big Mike said...

@Original Mike, apparently the Canadians have become a lot better in the intervening years in explaining the Burgess Shale to the tourists, and there are a lot of tourists these days given the proximity to Banff and Stephen J. Gould's book Wonderful Life (a wonderful book, BTW, and you can purchase a copy through the Althouse portal).

What Gould's book gets wrong, because no biologist could figure out what it was at the time, is Hallucigenia. The conventional wisdom at the time was that it walked about on its stiffed spiked legs, but more recent fossils from China showed that the "legs" are defensive spines and Hallucigenia is an onychophoran. Very interesting writeup here in Wikipedia.

Original Mike said...

@Big Mike - I'm about half way through Gould's book. Started it last summer, then put it aside and didn't get back to it (but I will). Thanks for the heads up on Hallucigenia.

Apart from the science, I appreciated Gould's treatment of the graduate school mentor/mentee relationship, something that was a big part of my life.

Jon said...

Anne, thank you for this post. I read the article about van Leeuwenhoeck (my bad spelling!), and learned a lot, and it was fascinating. I had known the name from many years ago, but had never gotten so up close and personal as that article. Thanks again!

SOJO said...

They look like vacuum bags.

cubanbob said...

Thank God these things aren't the size of Grizzly Bears.

I wonder if research is being done on the genetics of these creatures to see why and how they are capable of surviving such extreme conditions.

TerriW said...

Cuban Bob:

Yes, but it's been back and forth a bit:

Tardigrade's foreign DNA.

Also, not only can you freeze these guys for 30 years, they don't seem to mind ... outer space:

"How does the tardigrade survive in outer space?"

That second article even talks about a 100+ year old dehydrated tardigrade being successfully rehydrated. Very interesting little critters.

If you have kids, they may enjoy the SciShow video on them. (My kids LOVE these things and my daughter wrote a lengthy research paper on them. I don't normally have this much random information/trivia/links on hand for ... most anything.)

Original Mike said...

"Thank God these things aren't the size of Grizzly Bears."

Wouldn't that be cool!!!

CatherineM said...

As a child I used to freeze bees and bugs to see if they come back to life. None did and my mom was not happy about seeing different insects in the ice cube trays each evening.

cubanbob said...

@TerriW thanks for the links!
Original Mike that maybe uber cool but then again a creature than can laugh off a H-Bomb explosion and is the size of a Grizzly might be a bit too cool for us.

Original Mike said...

And finally, Lewis sits down one night to write in his journal, he says, “I find the curiosity of our men with respect to [the grizzly bear] is pretty much satisfied.”

sinz52 said...

"the most wise Creator and Lord of the Universe had formed the bodies of these animalcules, which are so minute as to escape our sight"

And God, of course, never told Adam or Abraham or Moses or Jesus or Mohammed about them. When Adam named the animals in the Garden of Eden, God forgot to tell him that there were other animals too small for him to see.

If God had told the prophets about the germ theory of disease, He could have saved humanity from countless plagues and epidemics and saved millions of lives and avoided countless tragedies.

But He didn't.

I guess it slipped His mind.

TerriW said...

"too small to see" "I guess it slipped His mind."

I was just having a great conversation with a pastor friend along these lines the other day. Certain passages of Scripture make you stop and churn for awhile.

For instance, what are we to do with Matthew 13:32 where Jesus is telling a parable and mentions the mustard seed, which He says is the smallest of all seeds?

Well, the mustard seed is not the smallest of all seeds, though it is "one of" the smallest, perhaps. What are our options?

- Jesus didn't know it wasn't the smallest.
- The person who heard the story and wrote it down misheard.
- The person who heard the story and wrote it down miswrote.
- The person who heard about the story and wrote it down misheard.
- The person who heard about the story and wrote it down miswrote.
- The person who made up the story didn't know.
- The original manuscript had it right, but it got bungled over time.
- Jesus knew quite well it wasn't the smallest, but didn't care. For the purposes of that time and place and his audience and his intended message, the mustard seed was the smallest seed they were aware of.

I suspect your level of belief and cynicism informs which option you lean towards (and I'm sure I missed some others). And the attitude a person takes on this question carries over to other passages that are either difficult to take literally (though Jesus had some words for Nicodemus on that front) or just plain rub you the wrong way (dinosaurs/germ theory/the terrible things that the "heroes" do/the abandonment of the foreign wives and children in Ezra/Heck, I even struggled with the fate of that poor bastard whose ox stumbled and he accidentally touched the Ark).

I could be here all day listing problematic parts of the Bible.

But the listing of these things is not the slam dunk for atheism that it might appear at first glance. Real life and arguments tend to not have "mic drop" moments when you are willing to part with your confirmation bias. Not that the other side of the argument is much better on that front; religious folks think they have their slam dunks, as well. (I always cackle when I see someone post some link on Facebook along the lines of "Watch this 12 year old's devastating take-down of X," as if there were ever any devastating take-downs of anything but strawmen. Or that if there were, they would be constructed by 12 year olds.)

Which is an extraordinarily long-winded way of saying: don't reflexively shut out the big picture idea of God because of the problematic details or because of your probably justified feelings about His other followers. (Speaking as a former nearly lifelong atheist who knew all the unassailable arguments and couldn't imagine that they could possibly be overcome.)

I've been more or less lurking on this blog since my now 12 year old was an infant and don't often post, but I wanted to respond -- not really to try to combat the argument you raise (because it is a very good question that I don't actually answer here, but only glance on), but to let you know that it's not that believers are unaware of or deny those problems and difficult questions. We really aren't idiots. Well. Maybe that statement is a little too blanket.

So, uh, yeah. Tardigrades are awesome.

mikee said...

Using liquid nitrogen, freezing koi into hibernation is possible. They recover well upon melting, as long as they haven't been frozen all the way to liquid N2 temperatures.