Clip shows tiny ‘indestructible’ tardigrades have ‘normal gait’ resembling insects

Do the water bear walk! Microscopic images show how ‘indestructible’ tardigrades have a gait resembling that of insects 500,000 times larger, but transforming into a ‘gallop’ on softer surfaces

  • Scientists filmed microscopic tardigrades to see how the tiny creatures walk
  • They found that the animals have a gait similar to that of insects 500,000 times larger
  • This ‘regular gait’ turns into a ‘gallop’ on softer surfaces, the researchers say
  • Originally nicknamed ‘water bears’ because scientists thought they had a cumbersome gait










They are known as one of the most indestructible life forms on Earth.

But tardigrades are also one of the smallest animals with legs and one of the only creatures with soft bodies that can walk.

Now scientists have captured them on a microscopic camera to see exactly how they do it.

Researchers found that tardigrades, also known as “water bears” or “moss piglets,” have a “regular gait” similar to much larger insects that turn into a “gallop” on softer surfaces.

This is surprising because the plump and heavy creatures earned the nickname “water bears” when scientists first observed their unwieldy corridors in the 18th century.

They are known as one of the most indestructible life forms on Earth. But tardigrades are also one of the smallest legged animals and one of the only soft-bodied creatures that can walk.

Tardigrades are microscopic, 0.02-inch-long animals with similar anatomy to caterpillars and woodlice.  They have eight legs with small claws (stock image)

Tardigrades are microscopic, 0.02-inch-long animals with similar anatomy to caterpillars and woodlice. They have eight legs with small claws (stock image)

Now scientists have captured them on a microscopic camera to see exactly how they walk

Now scientists have captured them on a microscopic camera to see exactly how they walk

“One of the coolest — and initially most surprising — things about tardigrades walking up to me was how … well they did,” said Rockefeller University mechanical biologist Jasmine Nirody.

“They have a regular gait, and it looks remarkably like many, much larger animals!”

Nirody and her team recorded the tardigrades that walked across different surfaces to analyze their gait and leg coordination.

They found that the creatures had a similar stepping pattern to insects that are 500,000 times larger and have hard bodies.

Researchers found that tardigrades, also known as 'water bears' or 'moss piglets', have a 'normal gait' similar to much larger insects that turn into a 'gallop' on softer surfaces.

Researchers found that tardigrades, also known as ‘water bears’ or ‘moss piglets’, have a ‘normal gait’ similar to much larger insects that turn into a ‘gallop’ on softer surfaces.

This is surprising because the plump and heavy creatures earned the nickname

This is surprising because the plump and heavy creatures earned the nickname “water bears” when scientists first observed their unwieldy burrows in the 18th century.

Researchers believe the reason they have similar locomotive abilities is because their evolution is related to some insects, such as ants, fruit flies, and others with a segmented anatomical structure.

“Tardigrades have a robust and distinct way of moving — they’re not those clunky things that roam about in the desert or in leaf litter,” Nirody said.

“The similarities between their locomotive strategy and that of much larger insects and arthropods raises some very interesting evolutionary questions.”

She added: “We didn’t force them to do anything. Sometimes they were really chill and just wanted to stroll through the substrate.

“Other times they would see something they like and run towards it.”

Tardigrades are microscopic, 0.02-inch-long animals with similar anatomy to caterpillars and woodlice. They have eight legs with small claws.

However, other creatures with similar physical characteristics crawl instead of walk, while “water bears” use their paws to move through every environment where they exist, including desert dunes, subterranean soils and undersea sediments.

Researchers recorded the tardigrades that walked across different surfaces to analyze their gait and leg coordination

Researchers recorded the tardigrades that walked across different surfaces to analyze their gait and leg coordination

Nirody and her team filmed the tardigrades running on smooth glass and on gels with two different levels of stiffness to see how it changed their running.

“We find that tardigrades adapt their locomotion to a ‘galloping’ coordination pattern when walking on softer surfaces,” the authors wrote in the study.

‘This strategy has also been observed in arthropods to move efficiently on flowing or granular substrates.’

Tardigrades have been around for 530 million years and outlived the dinosaurs.

The animals can also live without water for ten years and even survive in space.

There are over 900 species and they are found all over the world, from the highest mountains to the deepest oceans.

The study is published in the journal PNAS.

WHAT ARE TARDIGRADES?

Tardigrades, also known as water bears, are said to be the most indestructible animals in the world.

These tiny, segmented creatures come in many forms—there are over 900 species—and they can be found all over the world, from the tallest mountains to the deepest oceans.

Tardigrades, also known as water bears, are said to be the most indestructible animals in the world.

Tardigrades, also known as water bears, are said to be the most indestructible animals in the world.

They have eight legs (four pairs) and each leg has four to eight claws that resemble a bear’s claws.

Boil the 1mm creatures, freeze them, dry them, expose them to radiation and they are so resilient they are still alive 200 years later.

An illustration of a tardigrade (water bear) is shown

An illustration of a tardigrade (water bear) is shown

Water bears can survive temperatures as low as -457 degrees, heat up to 357 degrees and 5,700 gray radiation, while 10-20 grays would kill humans and most other animals.

Tardigrades have been around for 530 million years and outlived the dinosaurs.

The animals can also live without water for ten years and even survive in space.

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