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Discovery Magazine 10/1/2017

A Nearly Indestructible Creature

Have you ever heard about the incredible animal God made that humans have named Tardigrade (TAR-duh-grade)? Known also as a water bear, space bear, and moss piglet, the tardigrade is a micro-animal—so tiny it can only be viewed through a microscope. Tardigrades have eight legs and generally live in watery environments. Tardigrade means “slow stepper.”

These cuddly (though too tiny for us to cuddle them!) little critters have been found everywhere: from the Himalayas (above 20,000 feet) to the deep sea (below 13,000 feet). They have been found in mud volcanoes, hot springs, tropical rain forests, and under layers of solid ice in the Antarctic, not to mention lakes, ponds, and meadows. Would you believe they can be found in stone walls and roofs?

About 1,150 species of tardigrades have been described. Seemingly indestructible, some can survive extreme conditions that would be fatal to nearly all other known life forms, including bursts of gamma rays, asteroid impacts, and doses of ionizing radiation hundreds of times more powerful than the lethal dose for humans. Some tardigrades can survive temperatures as low as -458°F. Others can withstand pressures far greater than the pressure found in the deepest recesses of the ocean. And, yes, some even survive the vacuum of outer space. Tardigrades can go without food or water for more than 30 years!

Tardigrade with eggs inside The tardigrade was first discovered by the German zoologist Johann August Ephraim Goeze in 1773. It was given its name three years later by the Italian biologist Lazzaro Spallanzani.

So why did God make tardigrades? Scientists do not know all the possible answers to why they exist, but they have determined that tardigrades serve as food for the many organisms that live in water. In fact, since tardigrades have been found just about everywhere, they serve as a sort of “pioneer species.” They attract many other species to new, developing environments. That makes it possible for the spread of those species to new areas to populate.

There is no end to the amazing, marvelous variety of creatures created by the Creator. Each one is so complex and breathtaking that one can only bow before the majestic Ruler of the Universe. “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:8-9).

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