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"Size matters!" - in search for the Locus typicus of Batillipes mirus (II)

Many among us are travelling fast, strongly fuel consuming, far away, and all this preferrably cheaply. By this attitude we kindly support related professionals like the kerosene trader, the tourism attorney, and - in case eyerthing goes wrong - the ransom mediator and the victim helper psychologist.

Of course, we do not want to make fun of individual tourism tragedies but instead point out once more in a positive manner that you need not travel far in order to find interesting water bears.

The Water Bear Web Base is situated in Germany, so we are quite close to the "Mekka and Jerusalem" of maritime tardigrades, the Kieler Föhrde (the latter term indicating a sea arm of the Baltic Ocean near the North German city of Kiel). But any ocean sand beach worldwide should be suited for a similar expedition, with an estimated > 60% chance of success.

Lets have a look into our perfectly adapted backpack first: above all beer cans there is an extremely lightweight  Small dissecting microscope  for the screening of sand samples in petri dishes at low magnifications (~20 x).

Furthermore, there might be a tiny field microscope for higher magnifications, possibly low-priced like the one shown here. In fact, any standard RMS optics lightweight microscope might do the job as well.
For those who like to be slightly snobbish we do recommend the tiny Chinese military field microscope which is really rare, not just stylish but powerful like a high quality standard bright-field desktop microscope. The problem with this instrument is that it is a really scarce guest on Ebay, not to be compared with nowadays' artificially hyped and constantly overprized electronic gadgets.

The rest of our equipment is fairly simple: Petri dishes (take polycarbonate, not glass, when going to a beach!), a standard "Pasteur shape" pipette, a plastic bottle for the original tardigrade fitted sea water (in order to have ample supply later on) and a few of those meanwhile precious plastic film containers from the analogue era. For documentation and photography you might add a digital camera and a GPS device.

[ Kieler Föhrde ]

The beginning of the last and most characteristic stage of our expedition to Batillipes mirus at "Kieler Föhrde": a view of a place in the city of Kiel, Northern Germany. As you will see from the image it is already located at the very borderline between ocean and city, with the steamships seemingly crossing the terrestrial streets.

Starting point of our last expedition stage is a bus stop North West of the Kiel Central Railway Station. We take bus line 501 (direction: Strande) and cross the Atlantic Ocean/Baltic Sea Channel:

[ Kieler Föhrde ]

View from our bus line 501, from a bridge, on the Atlantic Ocean/Baltic Sea Channel.

After about 45 minutes we reach the terminal bus stop "Strande". The final destiny has to be approached on foot. But don't be afraid, the pathway in direction North is quite comfortable, perfectly adopted to the needs of lazy tourists. We pass small sand beaches and colourful beach chairs. For the less tough expeditionists ample supply of local "Matjes", fried potatoes and (mostly alcoholic) beverages is provided in order to cope with the challenges of nature in its full bruteness.

[ Kieler Föhrde ]

Small sand beach and beach chairs along our pathway, slightly North of the small town of Strande.

Slowly ocean and nature are taking over. We pass pebble bays, come across dried starfishes and crab shells. Of course there is also some ocean melancholy with its signs of multiple "bio" death.

[ Kieler Föhrde ]

The ocean is coming close to you - with ist mixture of bruteness and romance.

We have been taking several sand samples, from the very surface of the sand below the water, close to the beach line (the tide effect is neglegible). The film containers were filled to a height of ca. 4 cm with sand, the rest of the container volume completed with sea water. Special care was taken not to collect bigger organisms, algae etc. in order to diminish the risk of uncontrolled, stinking bio-degradation in our containers. Then "clip and close" the containers. In order to protect our tardigrades we must take care from now on for moderate temperatures (below 20 °C) in order to guarantee a sufficient water oxygen content.

Furthermore we collect pure sea water in one of our plastic bottles. By this wise precaution we will have an ample supply if clean spare ocean water later on at home.

The photographs below show the environment of our sample #2 which we will discuss in the upcoming issues of our magazine. The exact position of sampling was determined by means of a GPS device. So all of you might take an additional sample at exactly the same location. Just make use of Google® Maps or whatever assistance you should prefer.

[ Kieler Föhrde ]

Sampling location of sample #2, situated at  N54 26.965 E010 11.653
about 2 km North of the terminal station of bus 501, stop called "Strande".

In oder to study the environment of sample#2 you might proceed as follows:

Start Google Maps and insert our coordinates just by means of "copy ... paste" in the search field.

... and you will be there in the virtual manner, perhaps being able to recognize some of the structures of our photographs on the map as well.

[ Kieler Föhrde ]

Sampling location of sample#2 located at  N54 26.965 E010 11.653, detail

Please remember: we are searching for the legendary "grandpa" of all Batillipes species: Batillipes mirus. Batillipes can be translated from Latin as "Shovel foot". So the full name is something like "miraculous shovel foot", photographed and published for the first time by its discoverer, Prof. Ferdinand Richters:

[ Batillipes Kieler Föhrde ]

Maritime tardigrade Batillipes mirus from a marine location called "Stoller Grund", at Kieler Föhrde. Original photograph by Prof. Ferdinand Richters. The adhesive discs are characteristic for the genus Batillipes. The species itself can be recognized from its long tail (in position 3 o'clock on the photograph). Ferdinand Richters had only dead, formaldehyde preserved animals from an expedition. For this reason the photomicrograph shown was difficult to produce and had to be retouched. But, nevertheless, a big success for Ferdinand Richters, only about one century ago. Remember: tardigrades are small, tardigrades are everywhere but tardigrades are not found by everybody!

At first sight we did find: NOTHING, in spite of our splendid expedition equipment. But at home ... we will tell you in our next magazine. Stay tuned!


Ernst Marcus: Zur Anatomie und Ökologie mariner Tardigraden. Zoologische Jahrbücher, Systematik, Bd. 53 (1927) p. 487 - 558.
[Comment: we think that this is the ultimate source about Batillipes and Echiniscoides, even though it is written in German and ca. 80 years old. Ernst Marcus, expelled from Berlin by the Nazi Government in the 1930s, was the most prominent and most ingenious tardiologist of the 20th century. Most of his illustration material is deliberately copied up to the present day and used for all kind of modern tardigrade publication illustrations]

Ferdinand Richters: Tardigraden-Studien.
In: 40. Bericht der Senckenbergischen Naturforschenden Gesellschaft,
Part II: Wissenschaftliche Mitteilungen. p. 28 - 48 and 2 tables. Frankfurt am Main 1909.
[AComment: contains the first (!) photomicrography of a Batillipes tardigrade]

© Text, images and video clips by  Martin Mach  (webmaster@baertierchen.de).
Water Bear web base is a licensed and revised version of the German language monthly magazine  Bärtierchen-Journal . Style and grammar amendments by native speakers are warmly welcomed.

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