American Chums! Do you have a wobbly desk? Worried that your local second-hand charity emporiums are insufficiently stocked? Then may we be so bold as to suggest you buy this book!
Available from all good emporiums and Amazon. Copies will soon be made available to other parts of this smashing planet of ours! x
Water bears, also known as tardigrades, are everywhere… from the top of the highest mountains to the deepest abyss. Some of our more savvy readers will notice that they haven’t had to cut them a slice of the sponge cake, nor had to pour them a lapsang souchong… and so have quite rightly surmised that they are very very small… they are also really rather adorable.
The water bear is so called for his ursine looks and waddling gait, rather like a chubby grizzly plumped up on salmon for winter, actually to be fair it looks more like a first attempt at making a bear out of socks… but that was considered too much of a mouthful.
The tardigrades are also numerous, a thousand species have been named and undoubtedly many more will be. There can be as many as 250,000 in them in a litre of swamp water. However omnipresence, cuteness and looking like a bear is not enough to propel a critter into the Proceedings of the Ever So Strange. You see this chap is in fact the toughest creature on the planet, tougher even than the honey badger… though one wouldn’t say that to a honey badger..
Tardigrades can take anything to be honest, from temperatures as low as –273 celsius about as close to as cold as you can get… if that makes any sense… apologies I’m halfway through a rather nice chablis… which may or may not have tardigrades waddling about in it. They can take temperature hotter than a boiling kettle, an incredible 151 celsius, and can live for a decade without a drink, though why the blazes they would want to do that is anyone’s guess. What’s more, they can even take on far too much of the wet stuff withstanding about 6,000 atmospheres of pressure, in other words they could live in water six times deeper than the deepest ocean trench. Tardigrades can happily withstand about a 1000 times the dose of radiation that would take out a human. They’ve even spent ten days shoved out of a space shuttle window, and of course they thought that the whole trip was just dandy. Calling them names like ‘fat little multi-legged bear thing’ doesn’t even hurt them.
The key to this rather remarkable resilience is that they can basically die and resurrect themselves. When things are looking tough they will simply shut down their metabolism. Water bears will stop every single bodily process; repair, reproduction, development. Then when everything looks peachy once again, they’ll wake up, have a bit of a yawn and a stretch and waddle off. For this reason, although they are incredibly resilient, they are about as much use as the French when it comes to fisticuffs.
WE’VE MOVED HERE! COME SAY HELLO!
This fabulously decadent fellow is the velvet worm, so named for his downy skin, but the plush appearance of this oddity has nothing on its rather curious hunting habits. This chap bimbles through the forest, like a worm with legs in a smoking jacket, looking for victims by quite literally sniffing them out. When he finds a hapless individual he rears up and squirts goo everywhere like a primordial spiderman. The victim is stuck fast by the threads and all the dastardley velvet worm has to do is inject it with its poisonous saliva and suck the gooey insides out. After a fine brunch he will spend a good bit of time chomping up all his sticky stuff to use on some other hapless chap.
This rather spider-like way of eating is no coincidence. Although originally scientists thought it was a type of worm, it seems that this fellow is actually a lot closer related to the spiders. Some learned types have proposed that it is a link between the earthworms and the spiders.
Evolution lesson over, lets get back to oddities, and what better oddities to follow than obscene oddities. One knows by now that you are aware that I have a predilection for the somewhat obscene, and the Velvet Worm is just that. You see this bounder has rather odd mating habits.
The male, which is much smaller than the female, deposits his sperm in a sac and leaves it on the females back. These can build up and there are oft many of these spermatophores from different males all over her. Then by sheer jiggery-pokery the packages are absorbed into the side of her and the sperm swim willy-nilly through her blood until they reach the sperm storage organs, where she is fertilised. One species however has evolved to do without all this silly fornication, and put simply it clones itself … a virgin birth as it were. This isn’t the only mating oddity as some species lay eggs, others hatch eggs inside their bodies and some actually have live young. I’d like to see spiderman try that. Actually no … no I wouldn’t … that’s the last thing I’d like to see.
WE’VE MOVED HERE! COME SAY HELLO!
The Human body on average contains ten trillion cells (that’s 10,000,000,000,000 in case you were wondering … you weren’t … oh, alright then I’ll get on with it). In that ten trillion cells that you call you, there are seventy five trillion foreign cells. Yes that’s seven and a half times more cells of different creatures living in or on you right now. So how can you call yourself you? Answer me that … anyway I digress, I’ve been drinking at Dr Hendryks’ house again.
Anyway the Rt Hon Dr Hendryks has in his care a new device by the name of a ‘microscope’ and it is through this remarkable device we are able to meet our latest Proceeding of the Ever so Strange. Say good day to the Eye Lash Mite Demodex folliculorum isn’t he adorable? Guess where he lives? That’s right you’ve got them dilly-dallying all over your eyelids right now.
Happily they are incredibly minute, between .3mm and .4mm long and if you want to see one then carefully remove an eyelash and pop it under a microscope.
They are obviously no bother and under normal circumstances cause us absolutely no harm, apart from giving us a slightly weird feeling that our eyelashes just aren’t quite as welcome as they once were. To be fair they are actually rather handy little things, hoovering up all the flotsam and jetsom that are at the bottom of each eyelash… like crabs on a beach… i rather like that… At the end of a hard day they like nothing better than a constitutional stroll and go for a promenade around your face while you snooze. Thankfully they are very polite guests, and as their digestive system is so efficient there isn’t any waste which means you don’t have to worry about them using your face as a lavatory.