Strange new "water bear" species discovered in a parking lot in Japan

The 168th known tardigrade—a.k.a "water bear" or "moss piglet"—species can even reproduce in the lab.

Meet Macrobiotus shonaicus, the 168th species of tardigrade, or “water bear,” that has been discovered in a Japanese parking lot, of all places. 

The newly discovered tardigrade, Macrobiotus shonaicus. 
Scale bars in μm. Source.

Usually about 0.5 mm in length (in inches, ~ 0.0394), tardigrades have a circular mouth with teeth and usually survive on moss and lichens (but a few of their kind are carnivores). They’re also nature’s super-creatures, with the ability to survive for decades in basically suspended animation, dried to almost dust, frozen for 30 years (even to temperatures approaching absolute zero)—that kind of thing. They can also survive at 300+ degrees F (150 degrees C) and can withstand pressures from 0 atm in space, up to 1,200 atm at the bottom of the Marianas Trench. 

The researcher who discovered this particular species, Kazuharu Arakawa, regularly checks moss deposits for them, and he was surprised to find out this was a brand new species, found right in his backyard … err, parking lot.

He relayed to the magazine Live Science how he discovered this particular species. ”Most tardigrade species were described from mosses and lichens—thus any cushion of moss seems to be interesting for people working on tardigrades. It was quite surprising to find a new species around my apartment!"  

He then contacted a tardigrade expert at Jagiellonian University in Poland who helped Arakawa realize he had a new species on hand. 

Eggs with crowns? 

One of the features of this species is that its eggs are “crowned” in saucer-looking shapes with "noodle-ish" filaments attached. They likely help the tardigrade attach to surfaces so they don’t get washed away. 

The ability to procreate in the lab is rare for tardigrades, but they found that this new species is able to do so just fine, which opens the door to even more study and experiments. 

Let’s hear it for the water bears!

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less
Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less

The culprit of increased depression among teens? Smartphones, new research suggests.

A new study, led by psychologist Jean Twenge, points to the screen as the problem.

A teenager eyes her smartphone as people enjoy a warm day on the day of silence, one day prior to the presidential elections, when candidates and political parties are not allowed to voice their political meaning on April 14, 2018 in Kotor, Montenegro. Citizens from Montenegro, the youngest NATO member, will vote for a new president on Sunday 15 2018. (Photo by Pierre Crom/Getty Images)
Surprising Science
  • In a new study, adolescents and young adults are experiencing increased rates of depression and suicide attempts.
  • The data cover the years 2005–2017, tracking perfectly with the introduction of the iPhone and widespread dissemination of smartphones.
  • Interestingly, the highest increase in depressive incidents was among individuals in the top income bracket.
Keep reading Show less

U.S. reacts to New Zealand's gun ban

On Thursday, New Zealand moved to ban an array of semi-automatic guns and firearms components following a mass shooting that killed 50 people.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Gun control supporters are pointing to the ban as an example of swift, decisive action that the U.S. desperately needs.
  • Others note the inherent differences between the two nations, arguing that it is a good thing that it is relatively hard to pass such legislation in such a short timeframe.
  • The ban will surely shape future conversations about gun control in the U.S.
Keep reading Show less