Back to IMPORTANT business: tardigrades.

Now that every single thing has been said on the subject of abortion rights, the shitweasel arguments in opposition thereto, and the Man Children who feel entitled to materially abandon their own offspring because waaaaaaaaah, we can finally get back to matters far more pressing than forced birth, child abandonment and all the dead and maimed women and impoverished families around the globe.*

I refer, of course, to the tardigrades.

Waterbear Tardigrade (water bear) Hypsibius dujardini
scanning electron micrograph by Bob Goldstein & Vicky Madden
UNC Chapel Hill

Immediately after the first episode of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos, I took to Facebook to complain bitterly about the inexcusable lack of attention paid to tardigrades. Tyson and the producers obviously saw my complaint, because they attempted to rectify this tragic oversight by briefly discussing tardigrades in the second episode. But still, there were not nearly enough tardigrades, because as visitors to the Tardigrade Wing at the Palace Zoo well know, tardigrades are the coolest creatures ever:

They are teeny, tiny, water-dwelling, eight-legged animals prevalent in moss and lichen. About 1 millimeter (0.039 in) in length when fully grown, they can be seen under a low-power microscope. Tardigrades are able to survive in extreme environments that would kill almost any other animal: they can withstand temperatures from just above absolute zero to well above the boiling point of water, pressures about 6 times stronger than pressures found in the deepest ocean trenches, ionizing radiation at doses hundreds of times higher than would kill a human, and the vacuum of outer space. They can go without food or water for many years, drying out to the point where they are less than 3% water—then rehydrate, forage, and reproduce. Tardigrades have been found in hot springs, on top of the Himalayas, under layers of solid ice, in ocean sediments, in lakes, ponds, meadows, stone walls and roofs. Usually males and females are present, but some species are parthenogenetic.

Here is Professor Bob Goldstein at his lab at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill ‘splaining:

In other words, tardigrades are possibly space aliens, and in any event they are damn near…immortal.

I am sure you can see where this is going.

Yes, Loyal Readers™, the Palace lab will be testing the hypothesis that if I eat enough tardigrades, I will become a virtually immortal extremophile just as they are. To get started on this exciting and important research project, I sent an urgent missive to Professor Goldstein at his lab:

Dear Professor Goldstein:

I am a New York City-based columnist and blogger who usually writes about sex (I’m for it!) as well as politics and religion (I’m against ’em!), and who finds herself weirdly enamored with tardigrades. I also write to promote science, skepticism, and the sheer transcendent joy to be found in discovering the wonders of the natural world. To that end I maintain a virtual zoo on my personal blog, in which I have a tardigrade specimen named Schnoot.

If I sound like a kook so far, well you’re probably right but I hope you will bear(!) with me.


Professor Goldstein, have you ever eaten tardigrades?

If yes:
What do they taste like?
Do you have any good recipes?
What wine pairing would you recommend?
Are you now immortal?

If no:
Are they poisonous or otherwise dangerous to eat?
Would you recommend that I cook them (over 303 degrees F of course!) before I eat them, or do you think I have to eat them live in order to become immortal?


With many thanks and kind regards,
-Iris Vander Pluym

I sent this over a week ago, and yet believe it or not as of this writing I have received no response from the good professor. WTF, Professor Goldstein. I have, however, made some important progress: a Loyal Subject™ is presently on a covert mission somewhere in the hinterlands of North Carolina collecting tardigrade specimens for me to eat. I shall report my progress once the next steps have been taken and/or Professor Goldstein responds to my inquiry. In the meantime, in order to remedy the appalling failure of Cosmos to provide us with enough tardigrades, please enjoy this slideshow, courtesy of Prof. Goldstein’s lab.

And this:

*I am not really making light of or minimizing these things, of course. That was some heavy shit we’ve been dealing with around here, and, well, sometimes I crave a little dark humor in order to recharge, retrench and prepare to do battle with the shitweasels the next time. I make it a point to find some joy in my day, every day. Otherwise, the terrorists shitweasels win.

This entry was posted in food, science, the zoo by Iris Vander Pluym. Bookmark the permalink.

About Iris Vander Pluym

Iris Vander Pluym is an artist and activist in NYC (West Village), and an unapologetic, godless, feminist lefty. Raised to believe Nice Girls™ do not discuss politics, sex or religion, it turns out those are pretty much the only topics she ever wants to talk about.

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