Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tardigrades or Waterbears: Why they are amazing

Why tardigrades are so awesome...
Apparently not everyone has watched the Cosmos episode that featured the waterbear or tardigrade. Here's a link to a 30-second clip from the second episode of Cosmos (above)

These little invertebrates live all over the earth and they are pretty amazing because they can survive the vacuum of outer space, being bombarded with all kinds of gamma radiation. Every other life form from earth would just die out there. But when International Space Station scientists put tardigrades in outerspace, they dry up into a little hard balls, then when brought back to earth and hydrated, the little suckers just come alive and start eating and mating!

Serious science from
"YES, indeed many of the tardigrades survived the trip in space, and a few of them became the first animals to return alive after exposure to both space vacuum and solar radiation ... the space vacuum and cosmic radiation did not affect their survival or reproduction at all. This was true for both Richtersius coronifer and Milnesium tardigradum. What this means is that these animals can either protect their cells from expected damage of the extremely dehydration impact of space vacuum, or that they can repair damage that arise in some way. At the moment, we don’t know which is true.

I carved a couple tardigrade lino-cut blocks for printing on blank books and blank cards. The initial tardigrade notebook I put on my Etsy shop was my biggest seller of 2015.

It's kind of cute. It has eight fat little legs. The mouth parts are weird, like some kind of alien, the tardigrade's mouth has a tube that pushes in and out vacuuming up its food.  I wasn't sure how to draw the mouth (which is also its anus).  I made the mouth cuter than reality -- simplifying it into more of an anemone or flower-like appendage. The point of the art isn't scientific, it's about adoring these little critters which are part of many earth biomes (and maybe they came from outerspace - theory of exogenesis: 
"Panspermia Hypothesis – the “seeds” of life exist throughout the universe (perhaps as extremophiles!). The Earth was “seeded” by life arriving from space (also called “Exogenesis”).
Quote above on Exogenesis and Tardigrades and other Extremophildes from U Alberta Biology Lecture 

Next: to get these items placed into nerd-friendly shops like science museums. Let me know if you have a contact there who I should contact to place some of these items. 

Posted by Kelly Newcomer, Jan. 2016

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