The Growl of the Water Bear – NPR Homework
Prognosticated by Robot.Omens@gmail.com
(by Tommy Osborne)
The Tardigrades were returned from space and their crytobiotic state thoroughly tested. Ref: http://www.boingboing.net/2008/09/08/water-bears-survive.html. Knowledge of this most extreme form of suspended animation is highly sought after by the medical community. So the Tardigrades, Water Bears, were sent to me at the North American Arctic Research Station for further study. Beyond the water bears ability to survive extreme conditions, we wanted to breed several generations to determine if the immense cosmic radiation caused any unusual mutations, it did, too many actually.
The Middle Proterozoic Era is most widely known for the abundance of oxygen in the air causing creatures to grow to immense sizes by current standards, for example, dragonflies with two-foot wingspans. Well one of our little Water Bears’ mutations reacted in such a manner producing Middle Proterozoic Era like results, it grew fast and large. Normally no larger than 1mm under normal conditions, one grew to the size of my cat. At 18lbs and nearly two feet long, this ‘bear’ offered another interesting field of study- immense cells. Until now it was believed cells could only reach a certain size before they collapsed upon themselves; and since ‘bears’ only increase in size by cell growth not division, he (Winnie) was very special.
Other areas of interest:
Winnie’s method of communication. It seems Water Bears communicate, actually locate others for mating, via ultra-low frequency growls.
Study of the Tun. The exoskeletal shell that protects Winnie is made of an interesting sugar called trehelose. The Tun is created by a metabolic synthesis of trehelose forming a nearly indestructible exoskeleton. In Winnie’s current state, large, his hide cannot be pierced, can withstand immense heat, cold and radiation exposure- even more so than the vacuum of space.
Tardigrades eat by sucking the liquids of plants and single-celled animals by way of their piercing stylets.
Tardigrades can be found in every type of eco-system. Water Bear’s eggs and tun are light enough to be distributed world wide by winds of the upper atmosphere.
We Are Doomed – Poor Frank.
The growl is neither loud of very scary until you see the results. Frank was at the microscope when Winnie made her first “call”. Frank was immediately immobilized and with his internal organs liquified, Winnie moved surprisingly fast towards his prey. The stylets pierced Frank’s abdomen and began drinking, not unlike a fly’s proboscis. The tun now fully formed, I could neither remove nor damage Winnie as he ate. The bear finished, turned towards me and I fled. Hiding in my office I contacted both NASA & the CDC, while a few of my technicians were devoured, that muffled kettle-drum sound is now insidiously hideous. Winnie the Water Bear knocked the steel doors off their hinges like a miniature Sherman tank. I learned Winnie was actually a hermaphrodite female; she emitted a small cloud into the arctic winds, like pollen her offspring will travel far and wide. Then Winnie burrowed into the arctic ice and disappeared.