Tardigrade Hunting: Day 1

Following some “protocols” I’ve read about finding tardigrades, I began by taking some lichen samples and shaking them vigorously in water. The hope being that you spring the little guys from their shelter into the free water. Honestly I had no expectations and no idea what to expect. While I don’t think I was successful today, I did have a ton of fun seeing the amazing amount of life in just that little bit of lichen.

As a refresher see here and here.

I’ll post my notes about the extraction tomorrow. I took written notes because I was in a time crunch and I didn’t have time to transfer them here, and my lab notebook is in lab and I am home. So tomorrow then. But here is my quick protocol from what I remember:

  • Use tweezers to grab a piece of lichen.
  • Put 6mL DI water in analyslide and shake lichen in water.
  • Seal slide and do two more times.

I looked at one of the samples under a 10x objective and almost did a second one, but I got too excited and wanted to see what was going on in the original petri dish so I ditched the second sample and looked at the original. The first sample revealed nothing but a lot of lichen chunks. The petri dish however was full of life. Tons of little microbes running around in the sample, and they move FAST!!! Here are some awesome pics of whatever I could capture.

I’ll look at the samples more tomorrow, since I’m not worried about the tardigrades dying, because they are the FUCKING TERMINATOR SENT FROM THE FUTURE TO DESTROY US ALL!!!! Seriously though, those things are impossible to kill, which is why I think putting them in D2O (heavy water) is a worthwhile venture.

Here are some observations from the banks of my memory:

  • There are a lot of microbes in this little tiny amount of lichen. That makes me fear for my life to just go outside. What the hell is growing in my home compost? I think I want to live in a bubble for the rest of my life now. It makes me even more scared that I bite my finger nails, those things are in my belly!
  • The size range of things that are alive in this sample is amazing. There were things that were super tiny (even smaller than the tiny amoeba thing) all the way up to that giant paramecium type thing.
  • Yes amoeba and paramecium are the only two microorganisms that I know about. And now tardigrades. Thank you high school biology.
  • The small things would move around really fast. And the large things would move a bit slower, but they could still move faster than I could. And at this size scale, brownian motion is of almost no affect. I didn’t witness anything diffuse via jiggling. It was all controlled motion, and things that were stationary were completely stationary with the exception of whenever the petri dish moved, that made everything in the sample swish around ever so slightly, sorry for the ridiculously long run on sentence I promise I won’t let it continue for much longer, and now I’m done.
  • This sentence will be short.
  • Lichen all by itself is pretty cool to look at. Next time I’m in the lab I’ll take way more pictures and show you.
  • I feel like DIC microscopy would be very helpful here, but I didn’t have time to set it up.
  • I will also take some movies of stuff to put here. Benchfly? Sounds good to me!!!
  • Even if I find no tardigrades, I’m super excited to get back out there and find more samples!!

I know there is a lot that I’m not remembering. I felt like I was in the movie “The Abyss”:

I’ll take much more detailed notes next time when I can dedicate hours to just staring into the world of the itty bitty. Plus I’ll get a couple of objectives of different magnifications so that I can get in closer to this stuff. I briefly tried our 60x objective, but the petri dish was too thick. Anyone have a 20x objective or a 30x or something more than a 10x but less than a 60x? Thank you.

In summary, hooray for me! This was super exciting and I can’t wait to explore some more. By the way this is the cool stuff about science that doesn’t get to go in a journal publication. But here in my notebook I get to say how awesome it is, how much fun I have, what I did, and I get to show emotion! Win for open notebooks if you ask me!!!