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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tardigrades: Nothing to do with Being Late

     Tardigrades have nothing to do with being late to school, though biology students often study these tiny invertebrates with a low-powered microscope. Tardigrades are also known as water bears or moss piglets:








      The critters, which average .5 mm long, were discovered in 1773 and are nick-named for their resemblance to bears, though their taxonomic name, Tardigrada, translates to "slow stepper." 





     Tardigrades thrive in moss, lichen, lakeshores, and other moist environments though they are also found in extreme environments like deserts, deep ocean trenches, and in high tree tops. Water bears have a full alimentary canal and digestive system. Mouth parts and a sucking pharynx (see Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) image below) 


  

lead to an esophagus, stomach, intestine and anus. They have well-developed muscles and a single gonad. Tardigrades have a dorsal brain atop a paired ventral nervous system.

     Tardigrades can withstand temperatures from just above absolute zero to nearly 100 degrees F above the boiling point of water, pressures about 6 times greater than those found in deep ocean trenches, being plunged in rubbing alcohol, ionizing radiation at doses hundreds of times higher than the lethal dose for humans, and the vacuum of outer space:





     Water bears can go without food or water for more than ten years, drying out to the point where they are 3% or less water in a process known as cryptobiosis. It astounds me to think of something with a brain and nervous system being able to curl up into a ball for years, lose most of their water content, and still survive. They can then rehydrate and just carry on normal lives. 

     Water bears have been around since the Cambrian period, surviving major extinctions at the end of the Paleozoic and Mesozoic time periods. There are over 1000 species of tardigrades, most with 8 claws or disks:


     Bob Goldstein from the U of North Carolina, who has done SEMinal (pun intended) research on the little beasts, says of water bears, “There’s one thing that we know of, which is some animals that survive drying make a sugar called trehalose.” He continued, “And trehalose sort of replaces water as they dry down, so it will make glassy surfaces where normally water would be sitting. That probably helps prevent a lot of the damage that normally occurs when you dry something down or when you rehydrate it.” Not all of the >1,000 species of water bears produce this sugar though, he says, so there must be some other mechanism involved.

     This 3-minute clip on Water Bear Research shows the moss piglets in a state of cryptobiosis, in some of their environments, as well as disabled students climbing trees from and in wheelchairs to discover new species of tardigrades. 

    Neal DeGrasse Tyson featured tardigrades this spring on Cosmos. Are they old friends of yours or new acquaintances?


Better late to the tardi(grade) than never, 


Steph

(Word Woman)


Guess what is in these two false-colored SEM images:

                     
                SEM IMAGE 1




                 SEM IMAGE 2

And for comparison, the same thing without magnification:



Aren't fractal veggies cool?

And one more in black and white:



                        SEM IMAGE 3

Those mathematicians can be vicious:






56 comments:

  1. So, you're saying that if Cosmos includes that disclaimer about no animals being harmed in the making of this video, it's not for lack of trying?

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    1. Precisely, she said laughing!

      I meant to include that they are likely related to arthropods. . .

      Do you suppose they are in cryptobiosis somewhere in our solar system waiting for us to JUST ADD WATER like those sea-monkeys (really brine shrimp) ordered in 1.3 billion back pages of magazines?

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    2. I appreciate that they look tough. I've always associated them with the Tarkus.

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    3. The Tarkus looks like it shoots stuff out and the Tardigrade sucks stuff in (rather aggressively at times).

      But, thanks for the ELP memory!

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  2. Okay, Steph, for a second there I thought I had somehow stumbled onto The Onion web site. Tardigrades? Never heard of ‘em. I’m not old friends with tardigrades. I’m a new acquaintance to tardigrades… but I feel I am meeting them at some bizarre Halloween party.

    To wit, the SEM image reminded me of one of those fake Sumo Wrestler outfits. Other pictures made it look like a mini-walrus, armadillo, slug or sleeping bag!

    I checked the calendar… No, April 1 was almost four months ago.

    Then I looked up “tardigrade” in the dictionary, googled SEM image and discovered it meant Scanning Electron Microscope image. Could this be on the level? Is Scientific Steph not pulling our collective leg, after all? (“Collective leg?” What would that look like?)

    No Onion. No Paul Bunyan. Son of a Gun… This is a real creature!

    A creature that I’ll wager will never appear on any endangered species lists!

    DoubtingLegoNowBelieving

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    1. So glad to introduce something new, Lego, and that you are now a believer. They are strangely fascinating to me. . .I've not seen (or heard) one in the flesh, at least that I know of. . .Hear that little sucking noise? ;-)

      That middle SEM image is hard to forget!

      You are right about the endangered species list!

      Collective "leg"? Maybe 8 of them?

      Steph

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    2. The sleeping bag reference was great, btw. And the Sumo Wrestlers of course. . .

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    3. And since we've been talking armadillos also (33 seconds):

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhNGdnuFQYM&feature=youtube_gdata_player

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  3. Found this fun site that talks about the smallest book that must be read under a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). (The site is capital-letter-less but that should be ok with this crowd.) Scroll down for some other cool stuff too:

    http://www.designboom.com/technology/worlds-smallest-book-measures-70-micrometers/

    We could all pitch in to get the book and a SEM. They run upwards of $250,000 though you can a used, cheap one for only $20,000. And some people make SEMs at home, apparently:

    http://www.popsci.com/diy/article/2011-07/you-built-what-scanning-electron-microscope

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    1. I like that space-filling font in that microbook. It's essentially the same one MC Escher used to sign his prints. I remember playing around with it in college, for no apparent reason. (I think Ken Jennings used it once or twice for his signature during his Jeopardy run.)

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    2. It's a fun font for sure for small, signature chunks of text.

      I am adding two SEM photos to the end of this week's text. See if you can guess what is in the Photoshopped false-color images.

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  4. Replies
    1. It came from a list of SEM images but it does, admittedly, look like the thing with no or little magnification. . .so you could be right.

      Let me head into the back to my homemade SEM to check. . .

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    2. No, I just meant that SEM #2 isn't Velcro. Just channeling U.S. Grant, I guess. (He only knew 2 songs. One was "Yankee Doodle", and the other wasn't.)

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    3. Ok then, Ulysses...one more bonus image added. I think these look incredible in an SEM image.

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    4. Is SEM #3 some kind of diatom?

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    5. Close. Diatoms are usually made of SiO2. These are CaCO3.

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    6. OK, then coccolithophores.

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    7. Chalk one up for you, Ulysses!

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    8. I was planning to use that line! So, what's SEM #2?

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    9. Ah, just discovered that Google can search images. Cauliflower! Of course, if you search for matches for the coccolithophores, you get pictures of hubcaps.

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    10. Righto. Funny about the hubcaps! Coccoliths are so wild in SEM images.

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    11. SEM IMage #2: My tongue after licking a lime popsicle.
      SEM Image #3: You've heard of the world's largest ball of twine? This is the world's smallest ball of Lilliputian craters.

      LilliLambda

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    12. What the frac, tall order naming vegetables?! ;-)

      Thanks for keeping mum over on that other blog.

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    13. Lego, both good and amusing guesses. . .

      Are you both ready to kick in for a SEM now that you see how much joy and amusement it brings?

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    14. ... Then you can take apart all of your digital devices and discover the chip art hidden inside.

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    15. Wow, microchip art: not just movie star faces at the bottom of the potato chip bag any more.

      The leopard art with the outline on one layer and spots on another reminded me a bit of GIS.



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    16. Steph,
      I get correspondence all the time asking me to kick in monetary contributions to the SOT/SEM (School of Theology/Seminary) from which I graduated. When I do so, I am in a posture of kicking and screaming. Now, kicking in for a nifty SEM that allows us to view cuddly water bears, Velcro hooks and snarky chip art, that is a more attractive proposition.

      But on further reflection, I have to say no. I would truly be afraid of what I would see in the heretofore unseen world of the infinitesimal. Nightmares, I am sure, would ensue!

      BTW, in my July 29, 6:50 PM post, I misspoke. I wrote:
      “Tardigrades? Never heard of ‘em. I’m not old friends with tardigrades. I’m a new acquaintance to tardigrades… but I feel I am meeting them at some bizarre Halloween party.”
      I of course meant to write “…some bizarre Tardi Gras party.”

      LegoLate&LardLaden

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    17. Thank you, Lego, for bringing the whole SEM thing to the front burner. I am glad to reexamine this truly amazing, weird, and intriguing view of the world.

      TARDI GRAS--love it!

      Guess I'll have to go back to the drawing board with my SEM-making plans at home. SEMper fi. . .

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  5. I added an image of the same item in SEM 2 without magnification. . .It's the poster child for fractal veggies.

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    Replies
    1. That was Mandelbrot's point. The dominant geometry of nature is fractal.

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    2. Yes and this veggie shows it better than any other, methinks. Especially since it looks like the SEM version could have been the unmagnified one.

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  6. Speaking of words...

    Are handbaskets ever used for anything other than travel to the usual destination? ("Little Red Riding Hood took her handbasket of goodies straight to Hell on the way to Grandma's house.")

    Is anything other than motives ever ulterior? ("Tom bought a gallon of Benjamin Moore Latex Ulterior Semi-Gloss White for Aunt Polly's fence.")

    And speaking of that, do twains ever do anything but fail to meet nowadays?

    These single-purpose words are next to useless, if you ask me.

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  7. Let's see, a word that means exactly what you mean? Who would want that? ;-)

    As to handbasket, there are such things as armbaskets for carrying large loads of crops, etc. I've never run across a footbasket though. Not completely sure why "To hell in a handbasket" came about, other than a nice alliteration.

    I have heard of ulterior pay as in an unexpected bonus. Although, my company, after a decade of giving $ as bonus pay gave us a subscription to "Reader's Digest." Based on the reaction, I guess it wasn't truly ulterior but decidedly expected.

    I wish we'd kept twain for two. One less way to mess up " to, too, and two."

    It's not like they are bumping out other words from an unabridged dictionary. (Are those even printed any more?).

    Next Christmas, maybe we'll get twain handbaskets for our ulterior pay.

    And next to useless is uselessly ;-) [in my unabridged dictionary any way].

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I remember, a long time ago, the publisher of "Reader's Digest" being asked why he thought they had the largest circulation of any magazine. He replied that many of their customers were of such an age that they forgot to cancel their subscriptions.

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  8. The only time I read magazines now is in the dentist's office. He keeps them in twain handbaskets with no ulterior pay-off. ( I'll stop now, jan. It's a valid point.)

    I bought my first (and only) unabridged dictionary from the Tattered Cover for $100 in 1980. It's still a treasure. I haven't seen one in bookstores lately, though.

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  9. What do you think of bringing a patient with the Ebola virus to Atlanta?

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    1. I know a lot of Mets fans who'd say it was a great idea!

      Has this really been proposed? I guess the CDC has much better lab facilities that anyone in West Africa. And, despite the recent well-publicized slip-ups, there are probably few places better equipped to provide the needed isolation. But this would be for research, not treatment, right? What's needed now in West Africa isn't advanced treatment -- supportive care is really all that's available or needed -- but effective isolation and containment., not to mention education and rumor control.

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  10. My understanding is that it is going to happen.

    That was my first thought, that the CDC wants a patient here for research purposes. It seems a bit risky to me.

    Lots of rumors flying here and in West Africa both.

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    1. It's not a particularly easy virus to catch. Not airborne or anything, like TB. You need direct contact with body fluids. It is virulent. If they thought that having a few patients here could speed up development of a vaccine or specific therapy, that would be worthwhile. The big problems in Africa are the lack of resources and the ignorance (keeping doctors away because they're associated with disease, over-handling of the deceased, etc.). And a taste for bushmeat.

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    2. Ah, just read that the two patients coming to Atlanta are American aid workers who were infected in Liberia, and are coming back for treatment. Sounds reasonable. Looks like at least one is going to Emory University Hospital, which apparently has a special containment unit for dangerous infectious diseases.

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    3. I hope it all goes well. Something could go wrong though (Murphy's Law).

      Bushmeat?

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    4. Answered my own question here:

      http://gantdaily.com/2014/08/01/ebola-softly-softly-on-bush-meat/

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    5. The only completely safe thing you can do is exhale.

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  11. Those mathematicians can be vicious (see newly posted photo above).

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    1. They were probably just baking bread. That headline was from March, 2013, BTW.

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    2. How do you know this stuff?!

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    3. http://daryld.com/weapons-of-math-instruction/

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    4. Can't help but think about Norm Crosby.

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    5. "Read my ellipse." That was great, Paul.

      The Master of Malaprops--Mr. Crosby!

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  12. New book on autism by a man who fully emerged from his severe autism:

    http://www.brownalumnimagazine.com/content/view/3713/28/

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