The eight-legged, microscopic invertebrates, which look like squishy bears, are some of the most resilient creatures on Earth. They can survive for decades without food, extreme temperatures, and even the vacuum of space. The fossils of these creatures are rare and only two have been found so far in history.
Researchers published a new study on Wednesday claiming they found a 16-million year-old fossil of a tardigrade in an amber piece from the Dominican Republic. Only two fossils of these creatures have been found so far, despite their continued existence on the planet.
This latest discovery is the first tardigrade fossil to be found from the current Cenozoic age, which began 66 millions years ago. It has led to Paradoryphoribius chronocaribbeus being named a new genus, species, and genus of tardigrade.
This creature is thought to be the most well-known fossil tardigrade. Researchers were able see the details of the creature’s mouth and needle-like claws, which are between 20 and 30 times finer that a human hair.
Phil Barden, one of researchers, stated that finding a tardigrade fossil was a rare event. He made the statement in a statement published by the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
“What’s so amazing is that tardigrades are an ancient, ubiquitous lineage that has seen everything on Earth from the fall of dinosaurs to the rise and spread of terrestrial colonization of plant species. He said that they were a ghost lineage to paleontologists, with virtually no fossil record. “Finding any tardigrade fossil remnants is an exciting moment that allows us to empirically track their progress through Earth history.
There are approximately 1,300 species known to exist. According to National Geographic they can be found in a variety of environments, including the deep ocean, sand dunes, and freshwater mosses. According to National Geographic, some species can live up to 30 years with no food in extreme temperatures.
It is not easy to find tardigrades, since they are only about one-half millimeter in diameter. Barden tweeted Wednesday that he would not have seen it if not for Brendon Boudinot (his co-author), who saw it alongside the ants he was analyzing.
Marc Mapalo, one of the study’s co-authors, was so excited by the discovery that he wrote a song to commemorate the moment he received an e-mail from Javier Ortega Hernandez (study principal investigator) about the news.
“Tardigrade amber fossils were two. He sings, while playing the keyboard. “Now that we know there are three, there is another mystery. What could this fossil possibly be? Look at our paper to see.
Barden stated that the discovery of tardigrades is only “scratching” the surface.
“This study reminds us that we don’t know much about the planet’s living species, despite having a lot of tardigrade fossils.”