Still seeking the Tardigrade!

Hello friends!

My quest to find a Tardigrade led to an exploration the ‘Dagad Phool (Kalpasi)’ ecosystem, with lots of interesting organisms except, no Tardigrades!

Recently, on a family trip to Singapore I had a wonderful time with my grandchildren. But everywhere I went, along with my grandchildren, I watched out for lichens and mosses, hoping to track that elusive Tardigrade.

Luckily, I found some mosses growing on a wet rock near a Chinese temple. I enthusiastically collected some moss for my next Foldscope exploration.

Moss sample from a wet rock in Singapore

After returning to Hyderabad, I observed the still fresh moss under a magnifying lens and also under the Foldscope. The moss had a stem-like structure, and branched root-like rhizoids with clearly visible oblique septa. The leaves (phylloids) were multicellular with a midrib.

Stem-like structure of the moss sample
Branched rhizoids (root-like structures) with oblique septa
Multicellular phylloids showing a prominent midrib

From the observed morphology and anatomy of the sample, I identified it as Funaria SppI also noticed what looked like reproductive organs, within the spirally arranged leaves, and took closer look at them through the Foldscope. The club-like structure (see below) closely resembled the male reproductive structure, ‘antheridium’. However, I know that the basal part of an ‘archegonium’ (female reproductive structure) is also oval shaped with a slender neck at the top. As the complete structure was not clearly visible, I am not sure of the identity of the observed reproductive structure and leaving it up to you to decide whether it is an antheridium or an archegonium. 🙂

Reproductive structure (antheridium or archaegonium?) of Funaria
Reproductive structure of Funaria

It is known that Funaria shows alternation of generation, that is, morphologically distinct gametophytic (vegetative phase) and sporophytic (reproductive phase) phases. The sample which I collected was in its mature gametophytic phase, i.e. with the thallus differentiated into stem, phylloids and rhizoids, and the reproductive organs formed. However, I did not find any developing sporophyte (capsule) in the moss sample, which perhaps indicated that fertilization has not taken place as yet.

Hey! what am I doing? I should be looking for the Tardigrade rather than exploring this moss sample! So, I added some mineral water to the moss sample, gently squeezing it to gather a water drop from the moist Funaria and observed it under the Foldscope. What’s this? It is a Bdelloid rotifer again! Forgetting the Tardigrade I watched, fascinated. The feeding dynamics of the Bdelloid rotifer was simply amazing. Take look at this video and enjoy! …Don’t miss the two waving crowns of cilia. And that beating organ inside, is it the mastax? …The entire digestive tract is happily churning away!

A Bdelloid rotifer

I then continued my search for Tardigrades in the moss suspension. Soon I felt a visual jerk. Hold on! no Tardigrades, but this time it’s a nematode!

Nematode around Funaria

For the next two days, I continued my observation of the moss sample, thinking to myself, perhaps the journey is as enjoyable as my destination!

But back to the elusive Tardigrade, I was left with a doubt. Is there any possibility of the existence of Tardigrades in a moss sample, where rotifers and nematodes are present too? Any ideas on this?

Oh @yashasdevasurmutt, happy to see your comment on my dagad phool post. And your exciting work with Tardigrades in the Himalayas! Perhaps you could answer this question?



with Debashree and Jayashree

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Nagesh Pai says:

    Thanks for sharing this! the videos are beautiful and lots to learn here!

  2. Dear Ashalatha and team,

    Thank you very much for the compliments. Tardigrades are very hard to find, they can be found in moss samples as well, but you’ll definitely find them in dagad phool.

    Soak the moss/lichen a bit longer in springwater or distilled water.
    All the best.. 🙂


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