Tardigrade Sex Does Not Disappoint

Tardigrade: Bob Goldstein and Vicky Madden, UNC Chapel Hill // Public Domain / Hearts: Public Domain
Tardigrade: Bob Goldstein and Vicky Madden, UNC Chapel Hill // Public Domain / Hearts: Public Domain

Tardigrades—a.k.a. moss piglets or water bears—are the scientific gift that just keeps on giving. Everything about these microscopic animals is extreme. They’ve been on Earth since long before the dinosaurs. They can withstand blistering cold, intense heat, years without food or water, and hanging out in the vacuum of space. They’re practically unkillable. So it makes sense that their sex lives would also be interesting.

That's why scientists have produced a video of two moss piglets having sex. The researchers/cinematographers responsible for the tape described the tender-yet-disgusting process in an article in the Zoological Journal.

The sex you’re about to watch is not representative of all tardigrades, just one species, Isohypsibius dastychi. There are more than 1000 different tardigrade species out there, and not all of them reproduce sexually. But I. dastychi certainly does.

For those of us unaccustomed to watching tardigrade sex (we're going to assume that's mostly everyone), here’s what’s happening. The female (L) has molted and laid eggs inside her discarded old skin. The male (R, perpendicular) has curled himself around her and is stroking her as he ejaculates onto the eggs.*

The researchers write that the action was “much more complex than expected,” and note that this “mutual stimulation” went on for at least an hour.

Not bad, little tardigrades. Not bad.

*We did warn you that this would be disgusting.

Paula the Two-Toed Sloth Is Officially the Oldest Sloth in Captivity

Sleeping two-toed sloth.
Sleeping two-toed sloth.
tane-mahuta/iStock via Getty Images

For many sloths, surviving a trip to the ground is an impressive achievement. As the BBC reports, a two-toed sloth living in a German zoo has done something even more monumental: Guinness World Records confirms that Paula the sloth has officially been deemed the world's oldest sloth at age 50.

Born in South America, Paula has lived at the Halle Zoo in central Germany since she was at least 2 years old. For nearly half her life, zookeepers thought Paula was male. It wasn't until 1995 that an ultrasound scan revealed her true sex and her name was changed from Paul to Paula.

The zoo chose June 14 as the date to mark Paula's birthday, and on June 14, 2019, the sloth celebrated half a century on Earth. Two-toed sloths typically live about 20 years in the wild and 30 to 40 years in zoos. At 50 years old, Paula now holds the record for oldest sloth in captivity, and likely the world.

The zoo staff credits Paula's longevity to having a stable, caring home. If her genes played any role, they won't be passed down to future generations: Paula doesn't have any offspring. After discovering that he was really a she, the zoo tried pairing Paula with male breeding partners. Though she became pregnant three times, her cubs didn't survive.

After a long and interesting life, Paula has earned her place as one of the most beloved animals at the Halle Zoo. Her caretakers showed their appreciation on her birthday by making her a special meal of cooked maize and vegetables—her favorite foods.

[h/t BBC]

‘Soft and Cuddly’ Venomous Puss Caterpillars Have Been Spotted in at Least 3 States

Wayne W G, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
Wayne W G, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The puss caterpillar is cute, cuddly, and coming to ruin your day.

USA Today reports that the highly venomous creature, also known as the southern flannel moth caterpillar, or asp, has recently been spotted in Florida, Texas, and South Carolina. Underneath its furry coat are tiny, potent spines that break off and attach themselves to your skin, causing excruciating pain and creating a hematoma, a bruise-like wound under your skin where blood has leaked from blood vessels.

According to University of Connecticut entomologist David Wagner, the caterpillar is dangerous partly because the sting of those spines becomes more painful over time. “It builds for a long time in a frightening way. No one expects stings to gain in impact or discomfort, and these will,” he told USA Today. “It packs quite a wallop.”

For one victim in Dade City, Florida, even medically administered morphine didn’t alleviate her agony. “It felt like someone was drilling into my bones,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “I cried and pleaded with God for hours to make it stop.”

puss caterpillar
going on going on, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

If one does happen to inch its way onto you, curb the instinct to flail about or swat at random—trying to brush off the adorable nightmare just increases the possibility of those sinister spines sticking to your skin. Instead, have someone carefully and calmly remove the insect with a twig or a 39-and-a-half-foot pole. Then, take a shower and wash your clothes to minimize further exposure to leftover spines.

As traumatizing as the experience sounds, your chances of meeting one of these fun-sized villains are hearteningly slim. Wagner explains that they’re particularly scarce above the Mason-Dixon line, and not even very common in southern states, where they’re usually spotted.

In short, this is just another scientific reason why you should stick to petting dogs.

[h/t USA Today]

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