The tardigrade is often mentioned as one of the most "alien" lifeforms on Earth. This video speaks for itself:

(from this article)

I have long wanted to see a tardigrade with my own eyes. I have a small microscope. How do I obtain a tardigrade? I know they inhabit mosses and lichen, but is there a concrete procedure an amateur can follow that will reliably net at least one specimen?


2 Answers 2


Tardigrades can be found in almost every habitat! The easiest way to find them is probably to look in lichens or mosses (although it depends where you live).

serc.careton.edu website suggests a procedure:

  1. Collect a clump of moss or lichen (dry or wet) and place in a shallow dish, such as a Petri dish.
  2. Soak in water (preferably rainwater or distilled water) for 3-24 hours.
  3. Remove and discard excess water from the dish.
  4. Shake or squeeze the moss/lichen clumps over another transparent dish to collect trapped water.
  5. Starting on a low obejctive lens, examine the water using a stereo microscope.
  6. Use a micropipette to transfer tardigrades to a slide, which can be observed with a higher power under a compound microscope.

Just FYI, the tardigrades are a sister clade to the Arthropoda (insects, spiders and others). You can find them there on tolweb.org


I have an idea, but it needs developing:

It is based on filtering out just the Tardigrades from a sample, by exploiting their property of being very robust creatures.

  1. Collect the moss or lichen, see Remi.b's post.

  2. Do one of the many things that kills everything except Tardigrades. Would a pressure cooker work? It's a sort of sealable saucepan that boils food at high pressure.

  3. Perform an action that causes the plant matter to become unapealing to the tardigrades. This may involve a reaction, waiting for it to be eaten by the tardigrades, or to become too degenerate to be interesting to the tardigrades, introducing other small creatures that will then die out may speed this up.

I'm going to be calling those transparent squares used in microscopes to hold samples "slides", as I'm not familiar with the terminology.

  1. Put a slide inside the container the tardigrades are in, with plant matter the tardigrades want to eat on a small part of the slide. Prepare the slide if required, if otherwise the tardigrades would slide (through lack of friction) around to much as soon as the slide is moved.

  2. Carefully move the slide into the microscope and observe.


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