Home > Nature, Science > I'd like a water bear as a pet

I'd like a water bear as a pet

If you’re like me, you already know what a water bear is, but if you’re kind of like me then you’re confused as to what they are. Are they bears that live in water? Or are they bears that are the color of water? Or are they like koala bears and not really bears at all?

Yes, yes, and yes.

Water bears live in water (as well as a number of other locations) they’re semi-transparent and they aren’t bears. They’re actually in the same group as insects, but they’re not insects. Their formal name is tardigrades but are sometimes also called moss piglets, because of their diets. The water bears eat (wait for it) moss and lichen (the plants, not the werewolves). They’re also super adorable.

Water bears get their name because of the way they move around. With their eight legs, they appear to have a slow lumbering gait, like a bear walking on all fours. But their cuteness and resemblance to bears isn’t why I’m talking about them. They’re amazingly resilient creatures.

Water bears are actually so resilient that they hold the distinction of being the only animals to survive the vacuum of space. In 2007 a number of water bears were taken into low Earth orbit and subjected to the hazards of space, including the vacuum and high level of radiation. Not only did a number of water bears survive, but some even laid eggs.

The reason water bears were subjected to such torture is because they survive on Earth in a number of different climates. They’ve been found in hot springs and under layers of ice. Usually animals are adapted to living in the extremes of one environment. Water bears are fit to live anywhere and every where. They’ve been known to survive a whole decade without water. Their metabolism all but shuts down and they go into a state of hibernation until they get re-hydrated. Beyond that, they can survive at temperatures barely above absolute zero (we’re talking -272 degrees C) and temperatures as hot as 151 degrees C. If you’re good at your maths and remember your literature classes you’ll know that’s only 150 F lower than the temperature at which paper burns.

They can survive equally well at 0 atmospheres as they can at 6,000 atmospheres. That’s an infinite amount of difference right there. To get an idea of how many atmospheres 6,000 is (beyond being 6,000) it’s 6 times more pressure than is felt in the lowest ocean depths.

Really, how cool would it be to have a water bear as a pet. They’re basically self-sufficient. You only need to water them once a decade. Just imagine how bad you would feel if your water bear died though.

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  1. April 28, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Hey, it’s hard to remember to water things if you only have to do it once a decade.

    • DJ
      April 29, 2010 at 2:27 pm

      If you water it in the first decade, you’ve got, like a twenty year gap before you have to water it again. At least, that’s the way teh maths work out.

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