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Harmless automobile tourists or car raptors?

We have been wondering about this blue car - shown below - which was resting without any noticeable activity over months, taxes and parking fees paid, in the very center of Munich. And we still hope that the reason behind was not some kind of personal catastrophy.

In any case this photograph stands symbolically for the relation between human civilisation and nature. Our first association might be positive: "Look! Nature is coming back into town, conquering those brutely paved streets and sterile pedestrians' pathways - fine!". But possibly some of you might think as follows: "Nature is a brute force, constantly attacking our lives and our civilisation. At any moment we must take care not to be blown away by hurricans, flooded by the oceans or eaten by microbes! Now I will go straightly down to the cellar and pick up my chemical moss-killer!".

[ Nature vs. automobile ]

The green grass is clever enough to use the shadow area around the car. Probably the scarce rain water from above is avaiable for a longer time period in this sheltered situation. As usual life keeps trying, even though the long-term perspective of this tiny green island looks rather poor in our eyes. Alltogether the situation can serve as one more proof for the persistent energy and dynamics of life in general.

Well, your autombile is standing outside now, at this very moment? Did you consider the danger of a tardigrade attack? Some tardigrades nibbling the precious lacquer off your car? Recently we found a moss cushion on our own car, residing in a window corner:

[ Mooss cushion on car ]

Small moss cushion found on our own car (see arrow).

To us it looked like a perfectly typical moss and so the thought occurred to us that some tardigrades might live here as well.

[ Moss sample from our own car ]

The same moss cushion, seen in detail.

Sadly enough we didn't find a single tardigrade in this sample. But our awareness had increased and from now on we were looking out for other, similar situations with mosses on vehicles. For example we came across this scenario:

[ Vehicle tyre cover with moss ]

Moss growth on vehicle tyre cover.

[ Verhicle tyre cover, close-up ]

Moss growth on a vehicle tyre cover. Close-up view.

Well - how about stealing some moss from the tyre cover? You know, legally seen, strictly legally, the moss grown on the car has become a part of the car and as a consequence it has become a property of the car owner as well. This serious moral conflict was resolved when we found out that apparently some moss had fallen down from the cover onto the street where we picked it up for investigation. After soaking ...

[ Moss from the tyre cover ]

Moss sample, obviously fallen down from the tyre cover, found directly below the other moss on the cover, with the same growth length, same visual appearance etc.

... it transformed to an obviously vivid, green moss plant.

[ Change in visual appearance after soaking ]

Moss sample from the tyre cover, after soaking with tap water.

This time we succeeded. In fact we found the tardigrade  Ramazzottius oberhaeuseri  well known from e.g. leaf litter. Apparently it is well adapted to its habitat on the tyre cover as we did find baby tardigrades in the moss sample as well.

[ Ramazzottius oberhaeuseri, youngster ]

Ramazzottius oberhaeuseri tardigrade. Young animal found on vehicle tyre cover.
Body length ca. 0.2 mm.

For the newcomers among our readers we have prepared a detail photograph of this animal, showing the characteristic Ramazzottius claws.

[ Ramazzottius oberhaeuseri, detail ]

Detail photomicrograph of a Ramazzottius oberhaeuseri tardigrade, from the vehicle tyre cover as shown above. Adult animal, body length ca. 0.3 mm.

In case you should be a passionate motorist and should be afraid of tardigrade attacks now: we can offer free advice to you. It might be perfectly sufficient to drive you car to a car-wash plant every thirty minutes or so. This procedure will hinder the tardigrades from settling down in the crevices of your car and the inherent danger of tardigrade attacks is minimized :-)

© 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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