In 1773 a German Pastor by the name of August Ephraim Goeze discovered these tiny animals the size of a sentence period on a newspaper. Goeze called them "little water bears," a nickname that has stuck with them until today. Italian biologist Lazzaro Spallanzani later gave them their scientific name, tardigrades, which means "slow stepper" or "slow walker." Tardigrades have been found everywhere and have very unique characteristics. There are around 1,000 species, and more are being discovered all the time. They are most famous for their resiliency and ability to withstand extreme conditions. Tardigrade fossils have been found as far back as 520 million years ago.


1. What is a Tardigrade?

August Ephraim Goeze had described them as little water bears because they walk like bears. They are also known as moss piglets. When they are born, they are very tiny at 50 micrometers in length, but they can grow up to 1,500 micrometers and average about 500 micrometers. Tardigrades are nearly see-through but you can see them under the right light with the naked eye. However, most researchers observe them through microscopes at a 20-30 power magnification.

tardigrades discovery fruttipics / Getty Images

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