Tardigrades (commonly known as waterbears or moss piglets) are small, water-dwelling, segmented animals with eight legs. They form the phylum Tardigrada, part of the superphylum Ecdysozoa.
Tardigrades were first described in 1773 by Johann August Ephraim Goeze, who called them kleiner Wasserbär, meaning 'little water bear' in German. The name Tardigrada means "slow walker" and was given by Lazzaro Spallanzani in 1777. The name water bear comes from the way they walk, reminiscent of a bear's gait. The biggest adults may reach a body length of 1.5 millimetres (0.059 in), the smallest below 0.1 mm. Freshly hatched tardigrades may be smaller than 0.05 mm.
Some 1,150 species of tardigrades have been described. Tardigrades occur throughout the world, from the Himalayas (above 6,000 metres (20,000 ft)), to the deep sea (below 4,000 metres (13,000 ft)) and from the polar regions to the equator.
The most convenient place to find tardigrades is on lichens and mosses. Other environments are dunes, beaches, soil, and marine or freshwater sediments, where they may occur quite frequently (up to 25,000 animals per litre). Tardigrades often can be found by soaking a piece of moss in spring water.
Tardigrades are able to survive in extreme environments that would kill almost any other animal. Some can survive temperatures of close to absolute zero, or 0 Kelvins (−273 °C (−459 °F)), temperatures as high as 151 °C (304 °F), 1,000 times more radiation than other animals, and almost a decade without water. Since 2007, tardigrades have also returned alive from studies in which they have been exposed to the vacuum of outer space for a few days in low Earth orbit.
New, colorful monkey species discovered in Africa rain forest
A shy, brightly colored monkey species has been found living in the lush rain forests at the heart of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a find that utterly surprised the researchers who came upon it.
"When I first saw it, I immediately knew it was something new and different — I just didn't know how significant it was," said John Hart, a veteran Congo researcher who is scientific director for the Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation, based in Kinshasa.
In fact, the find was something of a happy accident. Hart first spied the suspect monkey in 2007 while sifting through photographs brought back from a recently concluded field expedition to a remote region of the central Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly known as Zaire).
The image that caught his eye hadn't been taken in the field. It was snapped in a village, and showed a young girl named Georgette with a tiny monkey that had taken a shine to the 13-year-old. [See Georgette and the monkey.]
Strange, black objects seen from 200 miles above the surface of Mars are generating interest and speculation that the unidentified objects could be anything from geysers to sunbathing colonies of microorganisms.
NPR compares several photos of the objects, including one taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Jan. 27, which appears to show, "little black flecks dotting the ridges, mostly on the sunny side, like sunbathing spiders sitting in rows."
The objects were first spotted in 1998. Interestingly, they appear when the surface of Mars begins to warm, appearing in the same location most of the time. And then, when the Martian winter approaches, they disappear with the same precise regularity. The images have been brought into greater detail by Michael Benson, in his book "Planetfall: New Solar System Visions."
Most scientists, including teams from the U.S. Geological Survey, from Hungary, from the European Space Agency all have their own theories but the leading explanation is that the objects are geysers of CO2 exploding from underneath the planet's surface.
"If you were there, you'd be standing on a slab of carbon dioxide ice," Phil Christensen of Arizona State University told NPR. "All around you, roaring jets of carbon dioxide gas are throwing sand and dust a couple hundred feet into the air. The ground below would be rumbling. You'd feel it in your spaceboots."
And while the geyser theory is the most popular explanation, it has yet to be factually verified.
In the meantime, there are some interesting alternative theories, including one from a group of Hungarian scientists, who have speculated that the objects are actually colonies of photosynthetic Martian microorganisms who emerge each year to sunbathe in the warm weather.
The past 27 years has seen a shocking reduction in the amount of coral cover in Australia's Great Barrier Reef — according to a new study, it's down to half the size it was in 1985.
This rather depressing analysis shows a drop of 50.7%, thanks to data gathered from more than 2,000 surveys of 214 reefs. They were even able to break down the cause of this decline into three sections: storm damage (48%), bleaching (10%), and a full 42% can be attributed to the crown of thorns starfish.
In a press release John Gunn, CEO of Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) said:
"We can't stop the storms, and ocean warming (the primary cause of coral bleaching) is one of the critical impacts of the global climate change. However, we can act to reduce the impact of crown of thorns."
The crown of thorns is an interesting creature. It's widely spread throughout the Pacific, and feeds specifically on the coral polyps. Its numbers have dramatically increased in the last few decades — possibly through the decline of predation — and because of that, it's causing significant damage.
Right now, the coral cover is declining at rate of 3.38% per year — and if all three causes were prevented, it would be growing at 2.85%, but if just the starfish could be contained, the coral cover would increase at 0.89% per year. It's not a lot, and it's not fast, but it would be enough to offset the other damages.
Tomb of Mayan snake lord discovered in Guatamala Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/s
Archaeologists say they've discovered what could be the tomb of one of the greatest Mayan rulers, the seventh-century warrior queen Lady K'abel.
The tomb was revealed during digging at the ancient Maya city of El Perú-Waka' in the rain forest of northern Guatemala. Alongside the body, excavators found a white jar shaped like a conch shell with the head and arm of a woman carved at the opening. The artifact had four hieroglyphs that suggest it belonged to K'abel.
"Nothing is ever proven in archaeology because we're working with circumstantial evidence. But in our case we have a carved stone alabaster jar that is named K'abel's possession," David Freidel, an archaeologist working on the site, explained in a video. Freidel, of Washington University in St. Louis, said the find is "as close to a smoking gun" as you get in archaeology.