tardigrade appreciation headquarters

image courtesy of Willow Gabriel and Bob Goldstein

microinvertebrate enthusiasts, webwanderers, and curiousity seekers -- welcome to the international headquarters of the tardigrade appreciation club. perhaps you, like me, have admired these little critters since your first exposure to them in high school biology class. perhaps you weren't paying attention in class and only learned of them later in life, over coffee with entomologists. perhaps this is first time you've ever heard of such creatures and you're right now wondering what all the fuss is about. while you should be fairly warned that i am far from being an expert (an armchair enthusiast, let's say) i have gathered a few documents that may illuminate things for you, my friend.

the tardigarde [sometimes called water bears or, to my unending delight, moss piglets] is a microscopic organism, of arthropode-like appearance, but so physiologically unusual it has a phylum all its own (tardigarda). lolling about in its warm, mushy home, the tadigrade is kind of the microbiological equivalent to a damp couch potato slacker. invisible to the naked eye and measuring a scant couple hundred microns across, our little friend still packs a wollop when needed. with an impenetrable exoskeleton and powerklaws of doom,this tiny fella is not to be messed with.

but wait! there's more! i have yet to reveal the wee critter's unique secret. you see, when the going gets tough, the tardigrade simply takes a nap until times are better. so whether its troubles be nuclear fallout, overdue library books or prolonged exposure to michael bolton, the tardigrade can handle it. through the magic of cryptoprotectants, the tardigrade can remain in a state of hibernation indefinitely with no tissue damage whatsoever. once the hostile foe or unpleasant environment has passed, the tardigrade awakes as if from a pleasant dream ready again to face the challenges of a new day.

since this page arrived on the web way back in 1994, i have discovered that i am not alone in my admiration of this hearty, wily beast. there are few places in the world where tardigrades are unfamiliar, and wherever they are, enthusiasts follow. they even have a significant presence on the world wide web. here's what i've found.

general tardigrade links:

the real deal
i keep trying to tell you people that i'm no scientist. i dropped out of bio 101, for pete's sake! thank god there are real scientists, like the good people who run this site, who are thinking and talking about tardigrades.
the inside scoop
have i whet your interest? itchin' to learn more? these smart folks can tell you a thing or two.
stalking the wild tardigrade
you, too, can be a tardigrade farmer. these folks tell you how.
talk about tardigrades
when i started this page way back in 1994 i never would have guessed that the internet would one day have a tardigrade discussion forum, but here it is.
tardigrada phylogeny
i know you've been dying to know more about phylogenetic research on tardigrades and how it relates to the morphology-based hypotheses of a tardigrade-arthropod relationship, so here ya go.
tardigrade bibliography
a much more complete bibliography than you'll find here.

Tardigrade Candid Camera
these clever scientists at UNC have the best jobs in the world -- they get to make movies about tardigrades. How do I get that gig? at least they're nice enough to share with the rest of us.

additional reading:

Kinchin, Ian M. 1994. The Biology of Tardigardes. Portland Press, London.*
one of the only books (perhaps the only book) dedicated wholly to the tardigrade. a very thorough investigation of this amazing little creature -- lots of cool pictures, too! HIGHLY recommended. if anyone wants to be my best friend, just spring for that hefty price tag on my behalf and i'll be all yours, for better or worse...

Blum, M.S. 1985. Fundamentals of insect physiology. John Wiley & Sons, New York.
Borror, D.J., C.A. Triplehorn & N.F. Johnson, 1989. An introduction to the study of insects, 6th. ed. Saunders, Philadelphia.
Brusca, R. C. & G. J. Brusca. 1990. Invertebrates. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, Massachusetts.
Chapman, R.F. 1982. The insects, structure and function, 3rd ed. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. Edwards, J.G. 1991. Insect study guide, rev. ed. San Jose State University, California.

on dormancy:
Danks, H. V. 1987. Insect dormancy: an ecological perspective. Biological Survey of Canada, Ottawa, Canada.
Ferris, G.F. 1919. A remarkable case of insect longevity. Entomology News 30: 27-28.
Keilin, F.R.S. 1959. The problem of anabiosis or latent life: history and current concept. Sci. Progr. 41: 577-591.

Sunose, T. 1983. Prolonged diapause in insects and its ecological significance. Kotaigun Seitai Gakkai, Kaih 37: 35-48.

wondering what happened to the pictures? sadly, i've had to take them off the site. here's why.