Tardigrade, or Water Bear : 2010

Photograph by

Nicole Ottawa

About this image

Coloured scanning electron micrograph of a tardigrade, Paramacrobiotus craterlaki. This fully-grown specimen is about 1mm in length and was found on moss in Crater Lake, Tanzania. Tardigrades, or water bears, are tiny invertebrates that live in aquatic and semi-aquatic habitats such as lichen and damp moss. They require water to obtain oxygen by gas exchange. In dry conditions, they can enter a cryptobiotic state of dessication in which their body water content is just 3 percent. In this state they may to survive for decades. P. craterlaki is a carnivorous species that feeds on nematodes and rotifers. Water bears are found throughout the world, including extreme environments such as hot springs and deep underwater. They can also survive the high levels of radiation and vacuum of space. This image was created in monochrome then later digitally colourised. Eye of Science, Reutlingen, Germany.