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Tardigrades Essay

1549 words - 7 pages

The protozoan commonly known as the “water bear” is an extremophile that has engaged many in the scientific community. The Tardigrade is an invertebrate that has eight legs and comes in many shapes and sizes. This group has many adaptations such as cryptobiosis that allows it to survive in extreme environments. The Tardigrade can be found from land, to water, to sulfur springs, and to over 25 species found in the frozen tundra of Antarctica (Miller et al, 2001). To understand these creatures this paper will summarize the taxonomy, reproduction, food, and protective genetics, of the Tardigrades. The first section to this paper will examine is how these creatures are divided taxonomically.
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This differs from land-based tardigrades that are more likely to have parthenogenesis (reproduce without males) or hermaphroditic (self-fertilizing). These reproductive strategies allow for a single member or egg to colonize a new location. The method of reproduction relies heavily on the chance of a male tardigrade meeting a female tardigrade. The less likely the chance the more likely the group will practice the parthenogenesis or hermaphroditic methods of reproduction. Once eggs are produced on land they are light enough to be carried by the wind to a new location. On the subject of eggs there are two main ways eggs are laid. The first is when the eggs are laid individually and are not attached to anything also known as free laying. The second is when the tardigrades molt they will also deposit their eggs with the molt. The molt provides anchorage and protection. The number of eggs deposited at a specific time depends on the health of the laying tardigrade and its specie. The time it takes the egg to hatch can range from 30 to 90 days depending on if desiccation occurs. The eggs develop into juveniles and then into adults. The eggs are able to enter a state of cryptobiosis if extreme environmental issues arise. Development will stop during cryptobiosis and resume upon a more favorable environment. Once in the juvenile stage tardigrades look almost identical to the adults, just smaller in size. The juvenile will not gain additional cells, but only increases size due to cell size growth. The tardigrade must molt around 4-12 during it life time, each molt taking 5-10 days to complete. The average life span of an active tardigrade is 3 to 30 months. (Glime, 2013)
Food selections for tardigrades depend upon the specie and availability of food sources. The tardigrade has a muscular pharynx and pair of stylets that allow for a suction to be formed drawing items into its gut. Tardigrades will consume both plants and other protozoans. Some of the more commonly consumed creatures are the nematodes and rotifers. Tardigrades will also consume yeast, bacteria, plant cells, and bryophytes (moss and liverworts). The tardigrades have a unique gut as it has an acidic upper gut and a basic lower gut. Cannibalism also happens when larger tardigrades will consume smaller tardigrades. Predator snails will consume tardigrades, but due to their small size and survival skills most tardigrades, juveniles and eggs make it through unharmed. (Glime, 2013)
One of the main methods that tardigrade are such strong survivalist is due to their ability of entering a state known as cryptobiosis. This term is also known as anabiosis and describes a suspend state which little to no metabolic mechanisms can be detected. Tardigrades are able to enter this state during poor environmental times and then exit the state when the environment stabilizes. Tardigrades are able to enter quite a few different states depending on the environmental condition. One of the first is...

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