Eat Your Tardigrades or You Don’t Get Dessert!
You know this little guy, right? It’s the mighty tardigrade, as featured in the new Cosmos. Tardigrades, also known as water bears, also known as FREAKIN’ MOSS PIGLETS, are microscopic eight-legged animals that can withstand temperatures from near absolute zero to boiling water, absorb extreme doses of radiation, go without food or water for ten years, and even survive the vacuum of space. They can even be completely dried out and ride on the wind to a new home, where they rehydrate and go about their tardibusiness. Tardigrade rain, folks.
In other words, they are BAMFs (bad-ass microfauna).
Oh, and you’ve probably eaten them. Thanks to Meg Lowman, I found out that these water-dwelling super-critters live not only on wild mosses and wet plants, but on grocery store produce like lettuce and spinach. Do you think that a mere rinse or shake under the faucet (or even cooking) is enough to dislodge a radiation-eating space pig? Ha! Not by a long shot, according to Lowman.
So yeah… trying to go strictly vegetarian? You’ve almost certainly eaten some tardigrades. Sorry. Don’t worry, though. They’re totally harmless. I like to imagine that when I eat them, I absorb their power, and become a little bit mightier.
New motto: For strength, eat your vegetables and eat your tardigrades.
Meg Lowman has more about your local tardigrade friends. Also check out Lowman’s awesome research project that helps wheelchair-bound students climb to the top of the forest canopy where they help study tardigrade biodiversity. Science is for everyone!