The Hardy Tardigrade

The Hardy Tardigrade

by Rita Goldner


My spirit animal this month really takes the cake for weirdness, even considering that I’m known in my posts for being influenced by weird animals. It’s a tardigrade, a cute little guy that’s almost microscopic. There are about a thousand different kinds, but they all range in size from half a millimeter to one millimeter.

Considering their tiny dimensions, they win the “Toughest Animal in the World” competition by a landslide. Tardigrades can survive temperatures from minus 328 degrees Fahrenheit to more than 300 degrees Fahrenheit. They’ve withstood pressure up to 87,022.6 pounds per square inch, six times the pressure at the deepest part of the ocean. Some were even sent into orbit in 2007, where they laughed in the face of cosmic rays, solar ultraviolet rays, dehydration, and the vacuum of space. They are the first animals on record to survive complete exposure to outer space.

Most microscopic animals need water to live; if taken out, they’ll evaporate. But the tardigrade just tucks in its head and legs, and rolls into a ball called a tun. They make a hard coating, like armor, and studies have shown they can remain in that state for more than 100 years. Then when they get rehydrated, they’re fine. They’ve been around for the last 520 to 100 million years, and if we had some disastrous future event, like an asteroid impact, they’d be the last living things on earth.

Faced with the tardigrade’s impressive résumé, I have to stretch to find something to which authors can relate. The obvious choice is resilience. Authors have to face harsh times, too, and sometimes it helps to roll into a little ball and just hang on. Some of us have been hanging on for a while, waiting to flourish, but unlike our tardigrade pals, we have to do some moving and shaking while we’re hanging.

Another trait I observe: authors and tardigrades are both ubiquitous. You can find tardigrades on a cold, barren, wind-swept rock in Antarctica that hosts only them and some lichens. Or you can find them in your own back yard, in a clump of moss. It’s the same with authors. You’ll find them at Starbucks or the library, pounding out their next creation, or in their cold, barren, wind-swept office, staring at a blank computer screen. So let’s celebrate the superpower we share with this month’s spirit animal: surviving hellish conditions and bouncing back for more!

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P.S. Watch the time-lapse recording of my illustration on my YouTube channel here:

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Rita Goldner
is the author and illustrator of the children’s picture book, Orangutan: A Rita Goldner2Day in the Rainforest Canopy. Rita has also written and illustrated two eBooks, Jackson’s History Adventure and Jackson’s Aviation Adventure, in the Jackson’s Adventure series.For orangutan facts and images and to purchase the book (also available as an ebook), visit Or by the Kindle version here. Rita’s newest book, Making Marks on the World: A Storybook for Left- and Right-Handed Coloring, is available for purchase here. Works in progress: H2O Rides the Water CycleThe Flying Artist, and Rose ColoredTo view additional illustrations and Rita’s books in progress, visit Rita’s website. Contact Rita here. Follow Rita on Facebook. Subscribe to Rita’s newsletter, Orangutans and More! and receive a free coloring page of today’s illustration.

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