Tardigrades, aka "water bears," are .02-inch-long animals that live throughout Earth's biospheres, from below solid Antarctic ice to deep ocean trenches and rainforests. Most animals of that size are legless and wiggle and slither to get around. Not tardigrades though. New research by Rockefeller University scientist Jasmine Nirody and colleagues reveals the physics of how these cute creatures lumber and sometimes even run around on stubby legs like insects that are 500,000 times larger. The findings could help shed light on the evolution of animal locomotion and perhaps even inspire new approaches to microscale mobile robotics. Another amazing video is below.
"If you watch tardigrades under a light microscope for long enough, you can capture a wide range of behavior," Nirody says. "We didn't force them to do anything. Sometimes they would be really chill and just want to stroll around the substrate. Other times, they'd see something they like and run towards it."
First off, they're tiny (<1mm long)! At this size, inertial forces are also tiny, so walking in water for #waterbears is like walking through WAY more viscous fluids (like honey!) would be for us.— Jasmine Nirody (@jasnir_) August 30, 2021
So it's p wild that they seem to plod along like animals 100000x their size! [4/n] pic.twitter.com/9OKjWZZMX7
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