Tardigrade is plump, loveable

Who's a chubby little water bear? Yes you are. Ooh, yes you are.

This moment of straight-up cuteness is brought to you by Bob Goldstein, who researches tardigrades at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

Tardigrades are, of course, microscopic animals that live in moss and the muddy sand on beaches. They can survive high temperatures, freezing, and crushing pressures by drying themselves up into a little hard ball, called a tun. Stick a tun in water and — no matter what horrible conditions it's dealt with — it will rehydrate and regenerate back into a tardigrade. Beyond that, though, we know shockingly little about these animals. Even their place on the evolutionary tree of life is up for debate. Among other work, Goldstein and his team are in the process of sequencing the tardigrade genome. It may well be the most adorable genome on Earth.

Dr. Goldstein's quick introduction to the tardigrade.

Thanks to Xeni for finding this in the BoingBoing Flickr pool!


        1. Works for me. Methinks you gots a firewall issue.

          [EDIT to add: come to think of it, that seems unlikely. Tardigrades should be able to pass through a wall of fire unscathed.]

    1. In my opinion, they’re quite cute in motion, like stubby caterpillars. This one can’t be, though, because like all electron microscope subjects it is dead. Which rather limits its cuteness in my view.

      The links are not working for me. As far as the place on the evolutionary tree being up for debate, though, that seems exaggerated. Nearly everyone agrees they are closest to arthropods and onychophores, and if the precise arrangement might be unclear, that’s still more certainty than for many of the other animal phyla.

        1. That’s another thing that seems to be popularly confused. When tardigrades form a resting tun, they become very hard to destroy…but that doesn’t mean the active animals are.

          @fuzzyfuzzyfungus:disqus : That’s very interesting, but since it’s being reported as something new in a 2012 paper, I’m sure it doesn’t apply to most images.

  1. I love learning about new things like this. And they always come with new words, too. (But this is what it leads to:

    Brother: T*U*N? On a triple word score? Tun’s not even a word.

    Me: Yes it is. It’s what you call a tardigrade in its cryptobiostatic state.

    Brother: (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

    1. In fact, a tun is a large barrel for brewing, which gives us the word ton. The sealed-up tardigrades were thought to be a little like bit like casks, you see.

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