We’ve had some gorgeous weather lately here in sunny NM and today it was supposed to get up to 72F (it never did though…) so I planned on going hunting for Tardigrades. I don’t know if I was successful, but I did get some promising samples. I’ll go into more detail later because I’m waiting for some pictures from Alex’s phone to be emailed, but it was a pretty fun adventure.
No tardigrades at the lightning field…
Well I’m not sure if that is true, but I couldn’t find any tardigrade habitats. The landscape of the Lightning Field was mostly plain (as in prairie, not ordinary). There was almost no tree or rock where I’m used to seen moss and lichen grow. It had been raining frequently so it was muddy, but I’m not in the business of bringing back dirt (and I don’t think my girlfriend would appreciate that too much either). Oh well for that…
After deciding to get some lichen and moss samples for tardigrade acquisition here in ABQ (at the Rio Grande) I decided to continue my efforts near The Lightning Field near Quemado, NM which I will be visiting for the next 24 hours. Now I have no idea what the terrain and conditions will be, but I feel like there is some chance I can find what I need.
In any case I’m going prepared. I’ve brought a few petri dishes, a razor blade (for removing samples from the wild), some latex gloves (for sterility and protection), and rubber bands (to keep the petri dishes closed). Hopefully I come back with something.
Map of Quemado, NM (You may need to zoom out)
Featured image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Tomorrow I plan on searching the Rio Grande Valley for Tardigrades. I found a paper yesterday by Clark W. Beasley that documents found species here in New Mexico at various altitudes. From what I read it seems like there are plenty in the ABQ altitude range and hopefully I have no problem locating them.
This is no easy feat when you consider that they are microscopic, but I have a secret. I know where they live. Apparently they like to hide out in moss and lichen so I want to collect a bunch of samples to see if I can spring them loose. There are some methods in the paper linked above that describe how to go about extraction. According to their methods, you moisten the moss/lichen for a while and then shake vigorously (I’m not joking!). After that you need to use a micropipette, for extraction and preparation for sample analysis. I don’t think I care about that and will instead focus on just bathing them in D2O from that point on.
I’m planning on collecting a bunch of samples and will probably walk along the Rio Grande Bike Trail (I figure the best chance of moss and lichen is near the only water source in ABQ) extracting samples. Of course I’m winging this, but it should be a fun adventure to say the least.
Here is the map for the access points I will most likely take:
Access Points Map If you click the link you can go to actual Google Maps and in the options select bicycling and it will show you the bike paths in ABQ. The dark green path near the access points that follows the Rio Grande is where I’ll be.
Reading some papers by Lewis and others at the time got me thinking about cool experiments. There is one that I want to replicate where it was stated that plant cells become hypertonic (cell shrivels up) in the presence of D2O (Brooks et al, 1937 which I need to find). This leads me to want to test red blood cells and human cheek cells (because they are easy to get a hold of) for similar effects.
Reading the paper by Lewis revealed some funny results when dealing with mice (he reports an intoxication effect when one mouse drinks heavy water) that intrigue me. But also gave me an idea. I would like to test the effects of D2O on the Tardigrade which is a microorganism in the animal kingdom. This thing (nicknamed the water bear) is known to survive the most extreme conditions. From Wikipedia:
Some can survive temperatures of close to absolute zero (−273 °C (−459 °F)), temperatures as high as 151 °C (304 °F), 1,000 times more radiation than other animals, and almost a decade without water. In September 2007, tardigrades were taken into low Earth orbit on the FOTON-M3 mission and for 10 days were exposed to the vacuum of space. After they were returned to Earth, it was discovered that many of them survived and laid eggs that hatched normally.
So you can see why I’d want to put this thing in D2O and see what’s up. I found one place that sells them, but I get the impression they sell only one per order and I would like to grow them (which requires two surprisingly, because of the egg thing). I have read that they grow on moss and lichens so maybe I can get some live samples over at the Rio Grande.
In an email correspondence, Koch pointed out that testing with paramecia might be a worthwhile venture as well. They may exhibit visible response in the presence of toxins or at least will definitely slow down and die quickly.
As an aside, in biology class in 9th grade we were given some paramecia to examine and I watched as mine spontaneously exploded in front of my eyes. I told the teacher about this and she couldn’t care less. Thanks a lot Mrs. Cuesta (here’s a Google link for you).
Bill Hooker on friendfeed also suggested an interesting experiment:
You can D-replace prokaryotes… what would happen if you did that for 100, or 100 million, generations, then switched ’em back to regular water? Can you H-replace ’em using D-depleted water? I’m trying to come up with ways to adapt some enzyme or other to D, wondering if you could get it sensitive enough that adding D to a system using that enzyme would act as a switch…
Which got me thinking that maybe I could get these creatures to live in D2O by slowly integrating more deuterium to regular water over time. I read a paper by Keith Hobson where they analyzed the source of hydrogen in quail tissues by feeding a group water with D2O mixed in. By combining their results (which I’ll need to reread) with what Bill says, maybe I can get a species (of anything really) to live in D2O and analyze the effects of regular water on them. Could be fun.
Wow I can get carried away. I started this post as an aside where I was just going to list some quick thoughts and then started rambling. It’s all good.
Also if anyone has read to the end of this post, can you tweet this post? I want to check the ability of Disqus to search tweets and include them in the comments (the Reactions section). Also try sharing via facebook, or whatever other social media that you may use these days. Thanks in advance.