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Tardigrade

Brett Westwood encounters arguably the world's toughest animal, despite it being less than a millimetre long and extremely cute.

When Brett Westwood heard he was going to encounter arguably 'the world's toughest animal' he didn't expect to find it on a garage roof in County Durham - but all became clear when he came face to face with the Tardigrade. First described in 1773 and so named because they resemble slow-moving bears, these microscopic animals are probably the closest thing to an alien we are likely to encounter. Capable of living without water and then being revived after 30 years, the Tardigrade or moss-piglet as they are also called, challenge our ideas about what defines life. And as if that wasn't enough, they are probably the cutest little creature you could hope to meet! Producer Sarah Blunt.

Available now

28 minutes

Last on

Mon 3 Jul 2017 21:00

Professor Mark Blaxter

Professor Mark Blaxter
Professor Mark Blaxter describes himself as a zoologist turned genomics biologist, with major interests in the genomics of "neglected" animal phyla.

Amongst other things, he’s interested in the evolution of development in the moulting animals such as tardigrades. He runs The Blaxter lab at the University of Edinburgh.

Paul Evans

Paul Evans
Paul Evans is a nature writer, diarist, playwriter, poet, broadcaster and environmental journalist. He is author of Field Notes from the Edge and Herbaceous and you can hear more of Paul in Natural Histories – Yew

Phil Gates

Phil Gates
Since the early 1990s Phil Gates has developed expertise in Science Communication and Science Journalism. He has written science features for the Sunday Post; Northern Echo; the Guardian; the Independent on Sunday; BBC Gardeners’ World (monthly column 1992-2005); BBC Wildlife; Kew magazine; Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society (The Garden); She; Australian Geographical Magazine and New Scientist and he has been a regular columnist for BBC Gardeners’ World magazine and BBC Wildlife.

He has written 17 science books for young people and has won or has been shortlisted for many literary awards. Phil has a strong interest in wildlife conservation and is a former chairman of Durham Wildlife Trust and past President of the Northern Naturalists' Union. He is on the editorial advisory board of BBC Wildlife magazine. His book Spring Fever, published in 1992, was an early prognosis for the impact of climate change on Britain’s flora and fauna that contains a number of predictions that have since been borne out by experience.

Find more from Phil at A Digital Botanic GardenBeyond the Human Eye, and Cabinet of Curiosites.

Dr Emma Perry

Dr Emma Perry
Emma was inspired to become a biologist after watching Life on Earth as a child in Britain. She completed her Bachelor's degree at the University of Exeter with a senior thesis that had her scuba diving to study a burrowing brittle star. She later moved to Florida to study how sand dollars make their skeletons. After moving to Maine she became interested in the lesser known invertebrates, especially tardigrades.

Emma now advises the Marine Biology program at Unity College, raises corals in the wetlab and researches tardigrades with students. Together with her students, Dr Perry explores the land and beaches of Maine looking for tardigrades. She is interested in determining what factors determine where different species of tardigrades are found.

Emma Sherlock

Emma Sherlock
Emma Sherlock is the Senior Curator of Free-living worms and Porifera at the Natural History Museum in London. She is also Chairman of the Earthworm Society of Great Britain.

The Earthworm Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (ESB) aims to promote and support scientific research so that earthworms and their environment can be better understood.

Through its work the society aims to encourage the conservation of earthworms and their habitats and to educate and inspire people so that these fascinating creatures may continue to be enjoyed in the future. Emma’s enthusiasm for earthworms is hugely infectious and amongst her favourite earthworms is the Fried Egg Earthworm!

William R Miller

William R Miller
William Miller is Director of Research at Baker University in Kansas, USA. He has particular interest in Tardigrades found in tree canopies and has written widely on the subject.

Picture: Tardigrade through a microscope by Phil Gates


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