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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!

Water bear hunter (video)

[Video Link] If Boing Boing had a mascot animal, it would probably be the tardigrade. As you aware, tardigrades (the scientific name is water bear) came to Earth from outer space.

Spaced Out is Vice's show about space on Earth. In the new episode, Motherboard travels to the Virginia wilderness to visit self proclaimed naturalist Mike Shaw on his hunt for the tardigrade, a "water bear" that can survive in situations that almost no other living organism can... and could have totally come from another planet.

Vice: First Animal to Survive in Space

Bear Wednesday 2: Adorable sweater edition

Celebrate what's left of Bear Wednesday by cooing over the cuteness embodied in this sweater, knitted with silhouettes of tardigrades. Also known as water bears, tardigrades are microscopic animals known for surviving some seriously extreme conditions and for being inexplicably cute for something that grows from a larva.

Great work, Chris Booth!