Tardigrade hunt in the South Valley

As I said, yesterday Alex and I went for a walk to look for tardigrade habitats. If you are unfamiliar, tardigrades are microscopic animals that are super adaptable and can survive in nearly any environment on earth and are even capable of surviving in space. They are more commonly called water bears but they won’t swipe your picnic basket (or at least not that I know of). In my (very limited) research, they are found to rent duplexes in lichen and moss, but I’m sure they can be found in other exotic locals. Because of this I decided to focus my search on that.

I’m no ecologist so my knowledge of where to find lichen and moss is pretty limited. I know moss needs water and lichen is more rugged, but both like moistness and dampness (maybe those are the same things) so I figured near the river I would find an abundance of this. NOPE!

After walking for a little while, I decided to get a sample of the river and maybe we could find some other microscopic organisms. I also got a sample of some mud, because why not. We found a dead tree too that looked like it had moss on it, but it turned out to be some weird fungal growth, so we took some of that as well.

On the way back to Alex’s ride we found a tree that had a ton of lichen on it. I tried climbing it but it had all these yucky bugs on it. Alex insisted they were termites, but I assure you (and her) that they are not. Just because a billion of them lived in a tree does not mean they are termites. Anyways not only were the bugs a nuisance but I couldn’t get a decent grip. Luckily Alex found some nearby trees that had lichen growing on more accessible regions. So we took some samples of this as well.

I’m optimistic now.

Below you’ll find pictures of the places we took our samples from, and below that you’ll find a google map I made of our adventure.


View Tardigrades in the South Valley in a larger map

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  • Mike Shaw

    Yes – you got it.  Scrape lichen off the tree, you are bound to find some tardigrades.  See my article at
    http://www.microbehunter.com/2011/10/20/microbehunter-magazine-october-2011/

    Have fun.  Illuminate the petri dish from the side, with a black background underneath.  The tardigrades will be seen more easily.  Use low power to explore the petri dish – like 20x. 
    Mike Shaw

    • http://www.iheartanthony.com Anthony Salvagno

      Thanks for the tips! I’ll be checking my samples tomorrow! Do you know how to isolate them from the sample? I would like to keep a bunch and I don’t really have the tools necessary. Do they need special conditions or can I just keep them in water?