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How common are tardigrades? Could there be tardigrades in our own back yard?



For each sample, we scraped moss from the location in the picture and placed it in a clean, plastic tray.  We poured about 100 mL of distilled water into the tray with the sample and let it sit for a few hours. Then, we used a clean, glass eyedropper to collect a sample of the water. The drop of water was placed on a glass slide. We used a Celestron Pentaview microscope on low magnification to view the sample.

Sample #1: Ground Moss, November 30, 2014

When we started looking for tardigrades in November, 2014 we couldn’t find anything but we think we found some algae which was very cool because it was our first time seeing something moving around which was big!

Here is where we took our moss sample in our front yard.


Here is the video we took of what we saw using the microscope. Please comment if you think it is algae or something else.

Sample #2: Tree moss, August 26, 2015

After many months, we decided to try again to find a tardigrade. The next sample we took was from a the bark of a silver maple tree in our back yard. Sample #2 was collected from here:


We did not find any tardigrades in the sample from this tree but did find some species of amoeba.  At least, we are pretty sure it is an amoeba. If you know what species it is, please comment! Here is the video:

Sample #3: Tree moss, August 27, 2015

We took another sample of tree moss from a different silver maple in our backyard:


This time, we found a very fast moving, agile little organism.  Magnification is low so we cannot see it really in detail. Also, we placed the water drop sample on a glass slide with a convex well so the water drop was left in tact; we didn’t use a slide cover either. We are not sure it is a tardigrade because the information we found about it said that it is a slow moving micro animal.

Here is the video; it moved fairly quickly so there was quite a bit of tracking that went on with microscope’s stage:

If there are any tardigrade experts reading this, we would love your input regarding what is seen in the above video. We have a few questions:

  • Do tardigrades actually move this quickly in a sample of water?
  • Do you think this is actually a tardigrade that we found?  Why or why not?
  • If it is not a tardigrade, what might it be?

When we tried to use a higher power magnification but the fast moving organism moves immediately out of view so it was impossible to flip to a higher magnification quickly enough to catch it.


At this point, our conclusion is that tardigrades are not very common in our backyard.  But, we do know that there are a lot of living things in the moss growing in various places around our house.

Take a look!

Here is a video we just found because of an article in the New York Times on September 7, 2015! The video is really cool but we discovered that it is not as easy as it looks to find tardigrades.

Please comment if you have any science experiment ideas that you would like us to do. Thank you and have a great day.

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