The question is: What is a tardigrade? After watching the Star Trek Season 1 Episode 4: The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For The Lamb’s Cry, you may have a few questions. The Season 1 thriller mentioned the species outright. The alien related to the Earth dweller has similar characteristics and to enlighten some points discussed in episode 5, a post was created.
WHAT IS A TARDIGRADE?
Discovered by Johan August Ephraim Goeze, a German pastor in 1773, tardigrade means “slow stepper” and are also known as water bears or moss piglets. Supposedly related to insects, these creatures have eight legs with claws resembling bears. With a tubular mouth the tardigrade uses razor sharp teeth to pierce other living organisms for food, but most like algae or bacteria. Enormous heads set on top of the tardigrades with a four segmented body. These microorganisms can live in marine, freshwater or semi aquatic environments.
Tardigrades are about 1 millimeter long and can live almost anywhere on planet Earth. They have been located in the freezing temperatures of Antarctica of 80 degrees below to the equator to the Himalayas to the depths of the ocean. They can survive close to absolute zero degrees, most global mass extinction events thus far and therefore outlived the dinosaurs. They can survive environments that are toxic and the vacuum of space for about 10 days, this even when exposed to gamma rays. After that, tardigrades revive from cryptobiosis in space and continue their existence. Loving moist environments, tardigrades need a little of water around them to keep from drying up or desiccation and to exchange gas. Known to survive 1200-6,000 times the atmospheric pressure, they,also, can exist in moss or lichens found in backyards all across American. Tardigrades can be seen with the use of a microscope.
They are not extremophiles living in harsh conditions, but surviving them by going into a state of cryptobiosis or “tun” as referenced in Star Trek: Discovery’s “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For The Lamb’s Cry.” In that state, tardigrades can survive without food or water for 30 years. They can,also, survive gamma rays. While small amounts of gamma rays can kill humans, tardigrades can withstand 1000 times as much gamma rays exposure and repair their DNA after injury caused by radiation.
Tardigrades live for about one year, that is, if you factor out the amount of time they spend in cryptobiosis or “tun.”
Most tardigrade populous have make up is male and female. A few have no males at all and tardigrades are asexual. Otherwise, female tardigrades lay eggs up to 30 at one time. Males fertilize those eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the new born tardigrades have a fixed amount of adult cells that simply enlarge as they grow.
HORIZONTAL GENE TRANSFER?
Michael Burnham spoke of the tardigrade having a horizontal transfer. Horizontal gene transfer is a way of moving genes from one specimen to another without parent to offspring relations. It is important in the evolution of many lifeforms. Bacteria utilize this method in immuning themselves to antibiotics acquire to treat humans against them. The tardigrade gathered gene sequences from the spores
Genetic engineering is the umbrella under which artificial horizontal engineering falls. Used to advance organisms including humans by transferring genes from one animal to another animal, the focus is to change the genetic makeup of the cells in the animal. So that animal is now genetically modified or GM. In history bacteria, mice, and food have all been genetically altered and sold commercially.
The DNA is transferred by copying the sequence from the original lifeforms by cloning or synthesizing the material. Then, it is inserted into the host lifeforms recombining the DNA to create a new sequence. These genes then become inheritable to the offspring of the host lifeforms.
Genetic engineering applications include medicine, research, agriculture, and industry. Food has been genetically altered to resist herbicides or certain pests to increases the production of certain crops.
Biotechnology such as fields of bio engineering and biomedical engineering are applied during genetic engineering. Bioinformatics which includes several fields of study like computer science, mathematics and engineering is used in horizontal gene transfer. These technologies are necessary for artificial horizontal genetic transfer to take place.
Tardigrades survive hostile environments by entering a state called cryptobiosis or “tun.” This is a death-like state where all metabolic processes are reversibly suspend. For humans this state means death. During cryptobiosis or “tun”, the tardigrades limbs contract and its body folds. They release lots of water just like in the Star Trek: Discovery episode “Choose Your Pain” where the creature was released into space and then revives from “tun.”. We can not suspend our metabolic processes. These processes lessen to 0.001% of its norm. Cryptobiosis or “tun” has five types of state depending on the environment:
- Anhydrobiosis-for an environment without water. The word derives from the Greek meaning “life without water.” In this state of cryptobiosis, some tardigrades in a “tun” form trehalose-a sugar used in food and cosmetics. The application of anhydrobiosis is the world has made “dry vaccines’ possible. These vaccines mobilize when they come in contact with water, supposedly injected into the body. Thereby, there is no need to refrigerate vaccines and could replace booster shots when the vaccine can be slowly released in the body.
- Cryobiosis-for the environment’s extremely low temperatures. The tardigrade freezes the water in its cells. Quick cycles of freezing and thawing is survived by tardigrades in extremely cold environments.
- Osmobiosis-is for an environment with a decrease in water and an increase in the solid like salt or any solute mixed in a liquid in which the tardigrade lives.
- Chemobiosis- for toxic environments.
- Anoxybiosis-for an environment lacking water to produce a “tun.”
APPLICATION OF KNOWLEDGE
Tardigrades may hold the secret to cryptobiosis for humans allowing us to survive harsh environments. We could travel through space for lengthy periods of time. Scientist might be able to suspend the human metabolism for this flight. Cryptobiosis could preserve sperm or food.
Hopefully, this article on”What Is A Tardigrade?” will shed some light on the terminology found in Star Trek: Discovery’s The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For The Lamb’s Cry?” It,also, may deepen your understanding on the episode. The alien in the episode looked very similar to its Earth counterpart. It also may suggest its evolutionary state many years from now if it continues with its prolific benefit from horizontal gene transfer.