Home Life Trends Water Bear Facts and Characteristics

Water Bear Facts and Characteristics

Evolution and systematics

The phylum Tardigrada belongs to the Panarthropoda group, along with the onychophorans (velvet worms) and arthropods, and includes virtually 1,000 described species. However, taxonomists count on that a minimum of 10,000 species exist. The phylum is split into three courses: Heterotardigrada, Eutardigrada, and Mesotardigrada. The latter was established on the idea of a single species, Thermozodium esakii, present in a scorching sulfur spring in Nagasaki, Japan. However, the species has not been recorded for the reason that finish of World War II. The Heterotardigrada consists of two orders, Arthrotardigrada and Echiniscoidea, and is characterised by the presence of cephalic appendages, so-called cirri and clavae, that operate as mechanoand chemoreceptors, respectively. The arthrotardigrades are marine types that normally have median cirrus and telescopic legs, with or with out toes, whereas the echiniscids are terrestrial armored or marine unarmored types. The echiniscids don't have any median cirrus and the legs lack toes. All heterotardigrades have a separate gonopore and anus. Eutardigrada consists of two orders, Parachela and Apochela, and is characterised by the absence or discount of exterior sensory constructions. The cuticle is unarmored and the legs don't have any toes. The so-called double claws of eutardigrades are differentiated right into a main and a secondary department. Gametes, excretory merchandise, and feces are launched by way of a cloaca. True heteroand eutardigrades are present in Cretaceous amber from Canada and the United States, and an aberrant tardigrade has just lately been recorded in Siberian limestone from the Middle Cambrian.

Physical traits

Tardigrades are bilaterally symmetrical and fluctuate in form from cylindrical to extraordinarily dorso-ventrally flattened. The majority of tardigrade species are white to translucent, however some terrestrial types could exhibit sturdy colours equivalent to yellow, orange, inexperienced, or crimson to olive-black. There are 5 distinct physique segments, together with a cephalic phase and 4 trunk segments, every bearing a pair of segmented legs with obliqueor cross-striated muscle tissues. The terrestrial and limnic types have decreased the segmentation of their stumpy legs that bear two to 4 claws, whereas the marine types could have telescopic retractable legs, with up to 13 claws or 4 toes with complicated claws. Other marine tardigrades have 4 to six toes with rod-shaped adhesive discs or spherical suction discs additionally inserted on the foot through toes. The cuticle of tardigrades may be very complicated. Both the dorsal and ventral physique cuticle could have segmental plates with totally different spines and appendages. The cuticle is regularly molted in juveniles and adults, very similar to in arthropods. In the start of the molting cycle, the tardigrade enters the simplex stage, which incorporates sheeting of stylets, stylet helps, buccal tubes, and pharyngeal cuticular rods, the socalled placoids. When the brand new cuticle is shaped, the cuticle of the digestive system and toes/claws can also be re-synthesized. The stylet equipment is re-synthesized by two stylet glands (“salivary glands”), and cuticular claws and toes are shaped in particular claw glands within the legs. The digestive system consists of three principal components: the foregut (ectodermal origin), the midgut (mesodermal origin), and the hindgut (ectodermal origin). The foregut is a really complicated feeding construction that consists of a mouth cavity, a stylet equipment, a buccal tube, and a tri-radiate pharynx with placoids. The two stylets and the stylet supporters are most likely homologous with mouth limbs in arthropods. The nervous system consists of a three-lobed mind, a subpharyngeal ganglion, and 4 ventral trunk ganglia. Paired eyespots could also be current contained in the forebrain. Tardigrades lack respiratory organs, and fuel change takes place by way of the dermis. All tardigrades lack excretory protoor metanephridia, that are frequent in lots of different invertebrates. Instead, eutardigrades have three Malpighian tubules on the junction between the midand hindgut. The Malpighian tubules could have each an excretory and osmoregulatory operate. Heterotardigrades lacks these tubules, however some have segmental organs (coxal glands) which will have an excretory operate. The embryology of the tardigrades remains to be extremely debated. Two theories exist: one principle postulates that the tardigrades have radial cleavage and an enterocoelic mode of coelom formation, whereas one other principle means that the tardigrades have a modified spiral cleavage and schizocoelic mode of coelom formation. Schizocoely can also be discovered amongst arthropods, which helps the shut relationship between arthropods and tardigrades. The dispute in regards to the tardigrade cleavage kind has arisen due to disagreements amongst scientists in regards to the noticed cleavage sample and cell fates. However, new and improved cell lineage research seem to help the presence of radial cleavage. Tardigrades are recognized to survive lengthy durations of drying or freezing by cryptobiosis - a stage of latent life (ametabolic stage). In truth, it's only tidal tardigrades and the tardigrades that inhabit the interstitial water of mosses and lichens which might be able to cryptobiosis. There are 4 varieties of cryptobiosis: anhydrobiosis (dehydration), cryobiosis (very low temperature), osmobiosis (water potential and sturdy variations in salinity), and anoxybiosis (lack of oxygen). Anhydrobiosis and cryobiosis are effectively investigated. In these types of cryptobiosis, the tardigrades can survive from just a few months to a number of years. Neither Osmobiosis nor anoxybiosis are accepted by all scientists as true types of cryptobiosis, however that is maybe solely a query of inadequate investigations. Usually, the terrestrial species will die after solely quick time (a day) in water with out oxygen, however the tidal tardigrade Echiniscoides sigismundi has survived up to six months in seawater with out oxygen. This species is at present the one recognized species that has the capacities to enter all 4 varieties of cryptobiosis.


Some tardigrades have nice migratory capacities, and eutardigrade species equivalent to Macrobiotus hufelandi and Milnesium tardigradum could also be true cosmopolitan species. The eggs of Macrobiotus species have been present in air-plankton collected by airplanes at a number of thousand toes. In Greenland, heterotardigrades have been present in rainwater samples after the highly effective foehn storms. It is understood that Echiniscus testudo is able to migrating with the winds from one continent to one other in its anhydrobiotic stage. However, the species has by no means been present in Australia, so it isn't a real cosmopolitan. Dispersal in marine tardigrades is lesser recognized, however the tidal tardigrade, Echiniscoides sigismundi, could unfold with the empty exuvia of the barnacles within which it lives. More than 100 eggs of this tardigrade had been discovered on one exuvium from the barnacle, Semibalanus balanoides. Ships might also assist to disperse marine tardigrades. One instance is the subspecies of Echiniscoides sigismundi in Australia. Along the coast of japanese Australia and within the Coral Sea, the subspecies Echiniscoides sigismundi polynesiensis is discovered, however in Nielsen Park in Sidney Harbor, the nominate type (Echiniscoides sigismundi sigismundi) was discovered on barnacles. The nominate type was described from Northern Europe and the subspecies, E. sigismundi polynesiensis, from the island of Tiahura within the Pacific Ocean. The solely rationalization for the presence of the nominate type in Sidney Harbor have to be that ships from Europe have carried it from Europe to Australia. Many species of tardigrades should not cosmopolitan. Species present in scorching or heat springs could also be endemic. The mesotardigrade, Thermozodium esakii, found in a scorching sulfur spring in Nagasaki, was solely discovered on one event, and could also be extinct now. The very aberrant eutardigrade, Eohypsibius nadjae, was described from a chilly mud volcano from west Greenland. Later, it was present in chilly springs within the Faroe Islands and within the northern a part of Italy. This distinctive species could also be an Arctic relict that survived in chilly springs. Several genera of Heterotardigrada present the previous Gondwana (South America, Southern Africa, India, Antarctica, Australia, and New Zealand) distribution.


Tardigrades are present in all totally different sorts of habitats, from the best elevations within the Himalayas to the deepest trenches within the deep sea, and from scorching, radioactive springs to the ice cathedrals contained in the Greenland ice cap. Many of the so-called terrestrial species are semi-aquatic, as a result of all tardigrades want a water movie to be energetic. The arthrotardigrades are present in true marine habitats from the tidal seashores to the deep-sea mud. The terrestrial species reside in mosses and lichens and tolerate desiccation for up to 9 years. Both the heterotardigrades and eutardigrades have independently invaded the terrestrial setting. One genus of eutardigrades, Halobiotus, has secondarily invaded the marine setting once more. The species, H. crispae, is an odd tardigrade that cyclically adjustments type by way of the 12 months—a change that normally is referred to as cyclomorphosis. The darkish winter type is cyst-like and has a double cuticle, however it might probably nonetheless transfer round if it isn't fully frozen. It could survive freezing for up to six months per 12 months. The early spring type tolerates freshwater, has skinny stylets, and lacks true placoids within the pharynx. The summer time type is just energetic when the salinity is greater than 30 components per thousand, and it has a standard single layer cuticle and sturdy stylets with macroplacoids within the pharynx. In this stage, the gonads mature for replica.


The identify Tardigrada means “slow walker” and was given to the primary described species of eutardigrades by the Italian scientist Spallanzani in 1776. He described their lumbering gait and within the capability to type tuns within the cryptobiotic state, however already in 1773, the German priest Goeze had referred to as a tardigrade Kleiner Wasser Bär (little water bear). The fascinating look of a moss-living eutardigrade, with its sluggish and bear-like gait, offers the observer associations to a miniature teddy bear. However, many tardigrades should not sluggish walkers in any respect. The carnivorous eutardigrade, Milnesium tardigradum, is the tiger among the many water bears. When it assaults nematodes or rotifers, it strikes in a short time and a number of of the eight legs don't contact the substrate in the course of the leap. The quickest mowing tardigrades are discovered among the many very specialised arthrotardigrades. In the genus Batillipes, the claws have been modified to type suction discs. The transferring conduct of the species, Batillipes noerrevangi from Denmark, has been video-recorded. This species makes use of its toe discs for suction, as within the suction discs of geckoes. When it strikes from a sand grain beneath the microscope to the glass slide, it strikes quicker than the human eye can observe.

Feeding ecology and eating regimen

Tardigrades could also be carnivorous, herbivorous, or bacteriovorous. Furthermore, just a few marine tardigrade species are parasites on different marine invertebrates. Tetrakentron synaptae is discovered on the holothurian, Leptosynapta galliennei, the place it punctures the epidermal cells of the holothurian and sucks out the cell contents. This species is the one tardigrade that has true diversifications for parasitism. It is dorso-ventrally flattened and all of the sensory constructions are decreased. As effectively, the claws are armed with three giant hooks which might be used to penetrate the dermis of the holothurian. Females specifically are much less mobile and are placed in small depressions within the tegument of the holothurian. Another parasitic species is Echiniscoides hoepneri that lives on the embryos of the barnacle, Semibalanus balanoides. The feeding ecology of the numerous marine species will not be totally understood, however it's recognized that a number of species don't eat in any respect for lengthy durations. Some species have symbiotic micro organism in particular head vesicles. The genus Wingstrandarctus that lives in coral sand has three head vesicles containing thiobacteria (sulfur micro organism). The micro organism could give the tardigrade dissolved natural matter (DOM) merchandise equivalent to amino acids and glucose. In the deep-sea household Coronarctidae, the mid-gut could also be stuffed with a white amorphous content material that may be very related to intestine contents present in bacteriovorous tardigrades. The feeding ecology of terrestrial and freshwater tardigrades is significantly better recognized. The heterotardigrades of the household Echiniscidae appears to be tailored to suck out the cell contents of mosses. Many species have very lengthy stylets to penetrate the thick cellulose partitions of mosses. Large eutardigrade species equivalent to Milnesium tardigradum, Macrobiotus richtersi, and Amphibolus nebulosus are carnivores and eat nematodes, rotifers, and different tardigrades. Smaller bryophilous species of eutardigrades could not all the time suck out the moss cells, however as an alternative could eat the epiphytic diatoms and micro organism that reside on the moss. Small eutardigrades residing in soil or within the rhizoids of mosses have very skinny and slender buccal tubes. In the genus Diphascon, the buccal tube is versatile with spiral rings like a vacuum cleaner tube. This genus can also be present in cryoconite (“star dust”) on the Greenland ice cap. The species, Diphascon recamieri, has a rusty coloured mid-gut and most likely feeds on iron micro organism within the cryoconite.

Reproductive biology

The male reproductive system in all tardigrades appears to be comparatively easy. The single testis is placed dorsally and the 2 seminal vesicles open latero-ventrally through two seminal ducts in an oval gonopore papilla (in heterotardigrades) or within the cloaca (in eutardigrades). Penile constructions have by no means been present in any male tardigrade, and it's nonetheless unsure how the sperm switch happens. However, plainly some females have constructions that may be inserted into the male in order that the feminine can actively seize the sperm. This technique of sperm switch may be very uncommon within the animal kingdom. The feminine reproductive system in heterotardigrades consists of a single ovary; there's a single oviduct opening in a six-lobed rosette gonopore system anterior to the anus. In eutardigrades, the oviduct opens into the cloaca. Two cuticular seminal receptacles are current in lots of arthrotardigrades, and a single inner receptacle is current in a number of eutardigrades. The inner receptacle opens into the hindgut and it lacks a cuticle overlaying. The seminal receptacles should not homologous in heterotardigrades and eutardigrades. In Milnesium tardigradum, a ventral fourth Malpighian tubule has been described. However, this construction is definitely a single seminal receptacle. All tardigrades have been thought of egg-laying, however there exists a single unpublished report from an arthrotardigrade (Styearaconyx sp.) collected within the deep sea that exhibits a larva popping out of the gonopore. If that is true, different deep-sea tardigrades could also be viviparous as effectively. Eggshell morphology has nice taxonomic significance in Eutardigrada. The egg of Macrobiotus hufelandi was the primary to be noticed in a scanning electron microscope, and the small print of the egg sculpture have fascinated scientists ever since. All echiniscids type cysts earlier than they lay eggs. When a feminine hatches from the cyst, she lays the unsculptured eggs within the previous exuvium. Although data on the mating conduct in Arthrotardigrada is extraordinarily scarce, it has been noticed that males and females within the species Parastygarctus sterreri mate venter to venter when the male ejects the sperms into the exterior seminal receptacles of the feminine. In eutardigrades, the male clings with its first leg pair to the anterior a part of the feminine. The claws on the primary leg pair of the males could also be strongly modified, as in Milnesium tardigradum. Internal fertilization is frequent in a number of eutardigrade species, and these species all the time lay free eggs. However, some species lay their eggs within the previous exuvium proper after molting, in order that the male can afterward unfold the sperm into the exuvium. Most tardigrades are dioecious, however hermaphroditism additionally happens. Hermaphroditism is particularly frequent in lots of genera of limno-terrestrial eutardigrades, whereas it has solely been recorded in a single arthrotardigrade species, Orzeliscus sp. Besides traditional ####ual replica, many species are able to reproducing by parthenogenesis (replica with out male fertilization). In some species, males have by no means been noticed and all replica is solely by parthenogenesis. However, it has been proven that some apparently parthenogenetic species typically have populations with males. It will not be recognized how the manufacturing of males is triggered in these populations. It appears possible that the evolution of parthenogenesis in tardigrades is linked to the evolution of cryptobiosis. This postulate is supported by the sturdy correlation between the presence of parthenogenetic and cryptobiotic capacities. The parthenogenetic capacities in tardigrades have advanced independently within the echiniscid heterotardigrades and the parachelate eutardigrades.

Conservation standing

No species are listed by the IUCN.

Significance to people

The phenomenon of cryptobiosis has fascinated people because it was found in tardigrades by Spallanzani in 1776. Today, researchers suppose that tardigrades might be used as check animals for touring into outer area. Experiments by which tardigrades in anhydrobiosis (tun stage) are uncovered to cosmic radiation, vacuum, and temperatures shut to absolute zero have been very profitable, and ongoing experiments with ionosphere balloons have proven that each the species Echiniscus testudo and Richtersius coronifer stands out as the proper check animals for true outer area experiments in area shuttles. The pharmaceutical business has been very fascinated about position of the sugar trehalose that tardigrades produce prior to anhydrobiosis and cryobiosis levels. Trehalose seems to defend the mobile membranes of tardigrades towards harm from freezing and dehydration. Trehalose could also be utilized in organ transplantation to keep away from freeze harm. Recently, it has develop into clear that the phenomenon of cryptobiosis is rather more complicated than first thought. New outcomes present that it isn't solely trehalose that's accountable for survival throughout cryobiosis and anhydrobiosis. In the species Richtersius coronifer, a really giant protein (ice-nucleating agent) appears to defend the mobile constructions from quick freezing in energetic animals. The phenomenon of cryptobiosis is an interesting organic puzzle. By fixing the puzzle of how a tardigrade can go right into a reversible dying (ametabolic stage) for a few years, and after a couple of minutes of rehydration can climb round once more, it would clarify how life developed on earth.