How Tardigrades Mate?

Science of the people, for the people

Very, very odd ritual…

Some things cannot be explained using words

Although Tardigrades (“water bears” or “moss bears”) are already known to be strange, their mating is difficult to comprehend. Tardigrades can survive high doses of radiation, they can survive being is space , and they can be destroyed by adding the water too fast (don’t ask me how I know).

Up until recently, we didn’t know how exactly do they mate, but now we have the answer.

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Close your eyes, some things cannot be un-seen :)

Let’s read together:

For mating, the male curled around the anterior end of the female exuvia, bringing his cloaca close to the mouth opening in the exuvia (Fig. 2). During mating he held the female with his first pair of legs, and the female stimulated the male by moving her stylets and contracting the sucking pharynx. Mating took about 1 h, and semen was ejaculated several times (visible under the light microscope). Exactly the same mating behaviour was observed more than 30 times in more than 30 tardigrade couples, and mating was also documented on video (Supplementary Material, Video S1).

Although being a  biologist myself, this description left me speechless.

Five years later, another publication has described more conventional approach.

Bingemer, J., Hohberg, K. and Schill, R.O., 2016. First detailed observations on tardigrade mating behaviour and some aspects of the life history of Isohypsibius dastychi Pilato, Bertolani & Binda 1982 (Tardigrada, Isohypsibiidae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society178(4), pp.856-862.

Sugiura, K. and Matsumoto, M., 2021. Sexual reproductive behaviours of tardigrades: a reviewInvertebrate Reproduction & Development65(4), pp.279-287.

Mating in Tardigrades

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