What better way to celebrate(?) August than with a short post on very cool life?
I was inspired by a great post on algae that turn snow pink. This starts out being weird because–pink snow? Then becomes weird because–algae on snow? Then finally becomes weird because it turns out there are more than 60 types of algae that live on snow just in the United States!
This reminded me of recent news of life in Antarctica’s ice-covered Lake Vostok (if that name sounds familiar, you’re thinking of the ice core data that have been used to trace changes in temperature and CO2). To clarify, when I say “ice-covered,” I mean the lake is covered in a sheet of ice 2.3 miles thick. At any rate, scientists recently announced they’d found 3507 genetic fragments and could identify less than half of them. Those they could trace were almost exclusively bacterial, but also included some multicellular(!) critters.
Which in turn led me to glacier mice. That is a technical term, not for a small rodent, but for a small-rodent-sized ball of moss-coated dust that gets blown around on top of glaciers. Inside of a glacier mouse is slightly warmer and wetter than outside, and it’s a hopping party in there! One dissected glacier mouse was home to more than 1000 individual nematodes (microscopic worm-shaped critters) and 200 tardigrades, a.k.a. water bears, a.k.a. the cutest microbes around.
So when the summer heat gets to be too much, imagine you live in a glacier mouse–if it doesn’t make you feel cooler, it will at least make you feel smarter.