Tardigrades

Looking for Tardigrades in St Michaels Churchyard, Lichfield

Tardigrades are water-dwelling, eight-legged, segmented micro-animals. They were first discovered by the German zoologist Johann August Ephraim Goeze in 1773. The name Tardigrada was given three years later by the Italian biologist Lazzaro Spallanzani. They have been found everywhere: from mountain tops to the deep sea and mud volcanoes (Wikipedia).

Tardigrades, often called water bears or moss piglets, are near-microscopic animals with long, plump bodies and scrunched-up heads. They have eight legs, and hands with four to eight claws on each. While strangely cute, these tiny animals are almost indestructible and can even survive in outer space. Tardigrade is a phylum, a high-level scientific category of animal. (Humans belong in the Chordate phylum — animals with spinal cords.) There are over 1,000 known species within Tardigrade. Water bears can live just about anywhere. They prefer to live in sediment at the bottom of a lake, on moist pieces of moss or other wet environments. They can survive a wide range of temperatures and situations (https://www.livescience.com/57985-tardigrade-facts.html)

I went looking for tardigrades today in St Michael’s church graveyard in Lichfield, Staffordshire, UK. No success – sadly – so you won’t see tardigrades in the photo and video below. However, the samples I obtained from moss on gravestones, some lichen off trees and a sample from a wood chipping pile, revealed a range of life shown in the video below.

Andy

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