Finally, the Tardigrade!

For more than two years now we have scoured water bodies and mosses, and soaked edible and non-edible lichen, in quest of the elusive tardigrades. With the onset of monsoons in Hyderabad, it seemed like a promising time to search for these ‘moss piglets’. That is how one Saturday afternoon, while looking for plants at a nursery, Chandrika found herself irresistibly drawn to this wall neatly designed by a moss network. She scraped some moss off the wall and we got our Foldscopes into action.

The moss was moist, so I (Asha) thought it wouldn’t need to be soaked for many hours. I added some water and observed it 10 minutes later.

So much patience is needed to look for these water bears! The movement of nematodes, rotifers and ciliates always distracts our attention. This time, I deliberately ignored two beautiful clumps of moss with nematodes and rotifers milling around, and focused on a quiet area away from the moss.

Lo and behold! In the very first drop under the Foldscope my dream-organism, the Tardigrade, swam into view!!

For a while I was lost in observing this magnificent creature in all its glory – swinging, swaying, playing, foraging!! For those of you who are new to these fascinating creatures, here is some information about them – https://allyouneedisbiology.wordpress.com/2015/10/04/tardigrades/.

As I broke off to share my excitement with the group, I forgot to mark the place on the slide or even take care of the coverslip which slid off in the meanwhile. I missed that critical spot and the slide dried soon after. 🙁


This tardigrade and perhaps its siblings could still be on the slide but I have no idea how they would look, and how to reactivate them. Surely rest of the sample must have more tardigrades but after eight hours of search I have almost given up hope. Can anyone suggest how to proceed with this investigation? We have more of the sample to explore.

Even though it was for a fleeting moment, I so enjoyed the tardigrade’s movements. If I may be allowed to anthropomorphize, it seemed happy on my slide and was so nicely dancing to an unknown tune!

Of course, there are other flora-fauna in the moss. On a normal day, I would devour each microorganism and make detailed videos-photos for a post, but for today, I leave you with these four videos to share the beauty and excitement that this ‘indestructible invertebrate’ brings!

Thanks to the Foldscope team and to @yashasdevasurmutt for encouraging me to find Tardigrades. It has been two long years to find these water bears and my excitement is far from over!

Cheers,
Ashalatha with Chandrika

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Calling @laksiyer. Just caught up till the end of your Foldscope live workshop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEST9QZqncg&feature=youtu.be. Beautiful tardigrade! Two for every 5 lichen samples?? Please advise us on this. We hope to involve school students too, as possible in this lockdown period.

    The amoeba is (literally) brilliant! :). – Jayashree

  2. laksiyer says:

    Yay! fantastic to find a tardigrade for the first time. Unless you find something for them to eat, they will ball up and hibernate. Many people have succeeded cultivating them with algae or bacteria as food. I haven’t had much luck, and usually might get one round of tardigrade multiplication and then they completely disappear or form runs. Rotifers on the other hand go on and on.

    Thank you for the comment on the video, those Amoebae can eat up most of my day at times. Regarding finding tardigrades. My survey is based on my local area. I even know trees where I am almost certain to find a tardigrade in their lichens. I am certain there is some relationship between the tree, type of lichen and tardigrade. One thing you could do is to keep sampling the same wall moss or those like it in your area. I really like the Stanford protocol, it will jive very well with kids. https://microcosmos.foldscope.com/?p=17901 and you can combine the search with a hand lens. I am certain you will find them at a greater regularity now and let us know if you see certain association patterns.

    1. @laksiyer thanks for your comments! I had seen the Stanford Tardigrade post before. A good entry to lichen observation but makes it look too easy to find tardigrades!

      Do you know if the Stanford Tardigrade project is still on? They have only the one post on microcosmos in 2016 and their blog page is no longer found at http://tardigraderesearch.blogspot.com/.

      – Ashalatha

  3. laksiyer says:

    “tuns” not “runs”

  4. Dear Ashalatha and team,

    Congratulations!!! Wowie, you finally you did it!! It’s really exciting when fellow foldscope users find Tardigrades. The hunt is really hard and it’s all worth it in the end. Great going. Judging by their claws, it is either a Hypsibius sps. or a Macrobiotus sps. The buccal apparatus in not clear to me.

    From what I’ve read, usually there can be 4 or more different Tardigrade species within a single lichen or moss samples. I’ve only come across two different ones in a single sample of mine.
    Check the image with the caption ‘Tardigrada’ in the link (https://microcosmos.foldscope.com/?author=2972). I’ve a Milnesium sps. and another eutardigrade specimen.

    Tardigrades are normally very evasive and really hard to deal with, don’t be disheartened. In my humble opinion, choose lichen samples over moss samples any day in order to increase your chances of finding them as they are bound to be found there. Here’s a link to a large Milnesium sps. that I found in one of the lichen samples from Himalayas. https://twitter.com/yashdevasurmutt/status/1124939320098299904?s=19

    Happy hunting,
    Regards,
    Yashas Devasurmutt

    1. @yashasdevasurmutt good to hear from you again. That’s a useful hint, to focus on the buccal cavity for better identification. I am still exploring this sample. Spotted another tardigrade but very briefly!

      – Ashalatha

  5. edurafi says:

    Amazing find! Tardigrade is Foldscope’s mascot. Sad that I haven’t found it yet.

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