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 –

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!

Ashalatha with Chandrika

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Calling @laksiyer. Just caught up till the end of your Foldscope live workshop: 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. 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.

  3. laksiyer says:

    “tuns” not “runs”

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