The Bestiary: Scaly-Foot Gastropod

These are diamond-tipped indenter heads. They are used to inflict ludicrous pressure upon various shit in order to measure the hardness of said shit. Recently, one of these was used to measure the hardness of a certain animal’s shell, and, instead of crushing the ever-loving fuck out of it, it found serious resistance.

The aforementioned animal is a snail.

Let me spell this out for ya. There is a snail that can resist the onslaught from an industrial-grade diamond applied with the pressure of several metric fucktonnes. A. Snail. That. Can. Resist. A. Diamond. Indenter.

Just imagine stepping on one of these guys. Instead of breaking their shells like those of usual snails, you’d break your own fucking ankle.

Jesus trilobitic Christ.

Today’s Episode: the Scaly-Foot Gastropod

Just look at this little piece of shit. Look at it and say to my face it doesn’t look like a tank.

What we’ve got here is the rather lamely-named scaly-foot gastropod, also known by the considerably more badass-sounding names of iron snail and  Chrysomallon squamiferum. The SFG hails from the deep-sea thermal vents known as black smokers, deep-sea vents from which water gushes constantly. That water, by the way, originates from below the mantle.

The proximities of black smokers are perfectly lightless, unforgiving badlands, with water rich enough in poisonous sulphuric chemicals to perform the chemical equivalent of curbstomping on any “superior” lifeform that dares stick it’s overspecialized, prissy ass down there, heat up to 450 degrees Celsius (one thirteenth of the temperature of the Sun’s surface) and pressures that could turn any land-dwelling scum into a Flatlander within seconds. If creatures want to survive here, they must either be hyper-effective murder-machines, or damn nigh unkillable.

The SFG’s predators, such as venomous, killer cone snails with bionic harpoon guns evolved from their own “teeth”, and car-wrecking carnivorous crabs that kill snails by pressing down on their shells for days with jagged ultra-hard pincers specifically designed to do this belong in the first category.

The SFG itself belongs in the second.

Hoooly shit does it ever.

The unkillability itself is obtained by using the chemosynthetic bacteria lurking in its glands to absorb and mineralize the poisonous iron-sulphides the water is overabundant with, making them non-poisonous for the snail. It then coats its shell with the minerals, constructing an unique three-layer structure no other gastropods possess. None.

To sum it up, the outer layer, used to block the bulk of the attack, is made up of greigite (Fe3S4), a ridiculously hard mineral. Then comes a middle layer of squishy organic matter purposed to absorb the shock of impacts, dents and blows. Finally, an inner layer of aragonite (CaCO3), designed to prevent asshole crabs from sticking their nasty claws into the shell and picking it apart splinter by splinter.

How effective is it? Well, this armor is so much better than what we puny humans possess that the U.S. Army is actively conducting research about it with the hope of developing new armor using the same build. Yes, this shell is so unbreakable that it caused the a military to lose their heads over a goddamn sea snail. Go figure.

Also, according to biologists researching the SFG, if we covered oil pipes with the stuff, they could easily shrug off damage done by such trivial things as fucking icebergs,

Not bad from a snail, I say.

But that’s not all! Look at it again.

There is a reason it’s called Scaly-foot Gastropod.

Those are scales. Made out of iron minerals.

Iron minerals that are poisonous and magnetic.

The scales are there because of the tooth-harpoon-hurling killer snails. Namely, they serve to deflect the harpoons entirely. Deflective iron scales. On a snail.

Holy crap.

So let’s sum it up, shall we? There exists a snail that forges itself a magnetic armor made out of poisonous iron ore to fend off killer crabs and venomous sniper snails that hunt it in its habitat of a vent leading to the Earth’s mantle.

Oh, and they don’t really eat anything, relying on their chemosynthetic bacteria for sustenance instead. In layman’s terms, that means that the snail keeps itself running by oxidating the sulphides in the water, all of which are lethally poisonous to most lifeforms, including the snail itself. The only reason it survives is that the bacteria chemosynthetize the sulphides, enabling the snail to quite literally live off of poison.

This molluscoid tank is ridiculously metal in more ways than one.


Behold, The Mighty Water Bear!

Tardigrades, aka Water Bears, are a type of extremophile, a name that’s well-deserved. Tardigrades are able to go into what’s called a ‘tun state’ where they become virtually invincible. They’ve survived the vacuum of space and extreme radiation, they’ve been dried out and resurrected decades later, they handle boiling temperatures and deep freezing down to 1 degree Kelvin (molecular motion stops at 0 degree Kelvin) and they’ve managed to look adorable and cuddly while doing it! Basically, Water Bears are the most badass microorganism around. Don’t mess with Water Bears.

Get more info and see the full video via Sci Fri

Tardigrades may be the toughest animals on earth

The Tardigrade or “Waterbear” is a tiny (0.5 mm or0.020 in) animal that inhabits mosses and ferns. The Tardigrade has existed on earth for half a billion years and it is known as an extremophile, meaning it can survive conditions that would kill nearly any other living creature.

Tardigrades can withstand temperatures from just above absolute zero to well above the boiling point of water, pressures about six times greater than those found in the deepest ocean trenches, ionizing radiation at doses hundreds of times higher than the lethal dose for a human, and they can survive the vacuum of outer space.

They can also go without food or water for more than 10 years, drying out to the point where they are 3% or less water, only to re-hydrate and come back to life..

The impressive abilities make the Tardigrade one of the most indestructible animals on earth.

Fathom the Universe

Read more: http://tvblogs.nationalgeographic.com/2014/03/19/5-reasons-why-the-tardigrade-is-natures-toughest-animal/


a river runs through it. and by it, i mean a five thousand year old copper, silver and gold mine in huelva, spain that renders the tinto river alien and lava like in appearance, a result of the oxidation of iron and sulfur minerals by the water. 

the river, which is consequently about as acidic as the hydrochloric acid in your stomach, is home to extremophile microbes (chemoautotrophs) which feed on the iron and sulfide minerals, begging the question if life is present elsewhere in our own solar system, like in the acidic ocean beneath europa’s surface or the hydrothermal systems beneath mars

(click pic or link for credit x, x, x, xx, x)

Some Things I'd Like to See More Of


  • Time travelers that don’t involve the modern era. A lot of time travelers come from modern times and go back or forward to an era. What about an Elizabethan girl who landed in 2048? A beatnik who went back to Paleolithic times? 
  • Fantasy plots that don’t involve royals or kingdoms or war - stories about normal people at their homes, which is absolutely extraordinary once you study it.
  • Different mythological systems. I know about the Irish/Continental European/Russian stuff. Not so much about the Chinese or Filipino stuff.
  • Real pantheons. There are plenty of stories out there where all the gods or a certain subset of gods are real. However, most authors don’t touch Christianity or God capital G. Christianity is a religion, too, and I think God and Jesus deserves a say with Zeus, Odin, and whoever else you’re using.
  • Extremophiles. Stories in deserts. Stories in the Arctic tundra. Stories near a volcano. Stories in the rain forest. Stories on the open plain.
  • Different family structures. You’re conworlding and you make new species and a new culture, and all that cool stuff. The basic unit of family is the heterosexual married couple and their kids. It hasn’t even been like that for all of human history! More communal systems. More bonds focusing on family or friendship than love. In fact, get rid of romantic love as the real basis for a long-lasting relationship. Do SoMeThInG dIFfErEnT. 
  • Non-anthropocentric stories. Use elves (the Silmarillion) or rabbits (Watership Down). I’ve already read a ton of stories about people.
  • Non-war revolutions. Let’s talk about the revolution caused by the printing press. Let’s talk about the new religion that just moved in. Let’s talk about the scientific revolution. Let’s talk about the scientific implications of the discovery of magic - other than people using it to kill each other. Let’s talk about changing opinions of the public in response to protests made by a group. Let’s talk change that doesn’t require someone’s sword in someone else’s gut.

Inside the Bizarre Genome of the World’s Toughest Animal

Tardigrades are sponges for foreign genes. Does that explain why they are famously indestructible?

by Ed Yong

The toughest animals in the world aren’t bulky elephants, or cold-tolerant penguins, or even the famously durable cockroach. Instead, the champions of durability are endearing microscopic creatures called tardigrades, or water bears.

They live everywhere, from the tallest mountains to the deepest oceans, and from hot springs to Antarctic ice. They can even tolerate New York. They cope with these inhospitable environments by transforming into a nigh-indestructible state. Their adorable shuffling gaits cease. Their eight legs curl inwards. Their rotund bodies shrivel up, expelling almost all of their water and becoming a dried barrel called a “tun.” Their metabolism dwindles to near-nothingness—they are practically dead. And in skirting the edge of death, they become incredibly hard to kill.

In the tun state, tardigrades don’t need food or water. They can shrug off temperatures close to absolute zero and as high as 151 degrees Celsius. They can withstand the intense pressures of the deep ocean, doses of radiation that would kill other animals, and baths of toxic solvents. And they are, to date, the only animals that have been exposed to the naked vacuum of space and lived to tell the tale—or, at least, lay viable eggs. (Their only weakness, as a researcher once told me, is “vulnerability to mechanical damage;” in other words, you can squish ‘em.)…

(read more: The Atlantic)

images: Boothby at al, Bob Goldstein and Vicky Madden, UNC Chapel Hill, Willow Gabriel and Bob Goldstein, http://tardigrades.bio.unc.edu/


Meet the electric life forms that live on pure energy | NewScientist

Stick an electrode in the ground, pump electrons down it, and they will come: living cells that eat electricity. We have known bacteria to survive on a variety of energy sources, but none as weird as this. Think of Frankenstein’s monster, brought to life by galvanic energy, except these “electric bacteria” are very real and are popping up all over the place.

Unlike any other living thing on Earth, electric bacteria use energy in its purest form – naked electricity in the shape of electrons harvested from rocks and metals. We already knew about two types, Shewanella and Geobacter. Now, biologists are showing that they can entice many more out of rocks and marine mud by tempting them with a bit of electrical juice. Experiments growing bacteria on battery electrodes demonstrate that these novel, mind-boggling forms of life are essentially eating and excreting electricity.

[Read more]

A frozen tardigrade has been brought back to life after 30 years
And it gave birth to 14 healthy babies!
By Bec Crew

A tardigrade that had been frozen solid for more than 30 years has been brought back to life by researchers in Japan, and has gone on to produce 14 healthy babies. That’s record-smashing stuff right there, because before this tough little water bear came back to life, the world record for reviving a frozen tardigrade was nine years.

The researchers also thawed out an egg that was collected and frozen with the tardigrade in 1983, and not only did a healthy baby hatch from it six days later, but it went on to successfully produce offspring of its own.

Just a few months after scientists debated the unprecedented amount of foreign DNA that is or isn’t looped up into the tardigrade genome, and the discovery that they turn into ‘bioglass’ when they desiccate, a team from the National Institute of Polar Research in Japan has managed to bring a frozen Antarctic tardigrade (Acutuncus antarcticus) back to life with its reproductive organs fully intact.

Continue Reading.

 Deinococcus radiodurans - the bacterial nuclear survivor

So on the topic of extremophiles after some of you guys really wanted to hear about crazier organisms than the tardigrade. D. radiodurans is one of my favourites because it can survive an insane number of extreme climates and no-one is quite sure the exact reason as to why such an organism evolved leading some scientists to believe it may have colonised Earth through panspermia (although its genetic make-up is to similar to that of other organisms for this to be a viable reason). It was identified in 1956 when scientists were experimenting with gamma radiation as a means of sterilising canned foods. a can of food exposed to gamma radiation thought to kill all forms of life spoiled due to this microbe.

D. radiodurans has a number of nifty little adaptations that help it withstand up to 5000Gy of ionising radiation with little loss in viability. For one, you can see in the image above that the spherical cells form a tetrad. Each cell within the tetrad also contains 4 identical circular copies of the genome. So each tetrad has 16 identical copies of the same genome. What this allows for is homologous racombination, to allow repair of broken fragments of DNA. The cells in the tetrad frequently take up fragments on DNA from neighbouring cells to improve repair. 

So why has such an ability evolved? It is unlikely that such conditions have ever existed on Earth as few other organisms can survive anywhere near the same amount of radiation, but the ability to repair its DNA so well is most likely a lucky evolutionary accident that has stemmed from it resistance to dessication in incredibly dry environments as the mechanisms with dealing with both are highly similar.

This bacteria is also able to withstand cold and acidic environments as well as vacuums. Current applications for the bacteria include using it in bioremediation to clear up radioactive, polluted sites where solvents and other toxic compounds contaminate the area. 

Further reading: Genomesnetwork

Yo, shout out to BTBAM for making the most mindblowing record in metal history. Mad props. Also, thumbs up for that killer xylophone solo in the middle of Extremophile Elite.

I listen to this full album daily. Always blows my mind.

It was like the first time listening to Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Never gets old.

Antarctic fungi survive 18 months in Mars-like conditions on board the ISS
By Fiona MacDonald

Tiny fungi that grow in the cracks of Antarctic rocks have just spent 18 months on board the International Space Station (ISS) in conditions similar to those on Mars, and 60 percent of their cells survived with stable DNA, new research reveals.

The results will help scientists better understand what type of lifeforms may have once lived on the Red Planet - and potentially still exist there - and will give them some insight into what they should be looking for.

The fungi in question are known as cryptoendolithic fungi, and two species were collected by European scientists and sent to the ISS: Cryomyces antarcticus and Cryomyces minteri.

Both species were taken from the McMurdo Dry Valleys, which are located in the Antarctic Victoria Land and, thanks to their dry, hostile conditions, are generally considered to be the most similar Earth environment to Mars.

Continue Reading.

No common insect, Wingless midge (Belgica antarctica) is an extremophile!

Only one true insect species makes its home on the icy continent of Antarctica where temperatures dip to –30˚F (–34˚C), and where it is considered the largest animal that lives exclusively on land. Its larvae can be frozen and dried until they lose two-thirds of their body weight and can go up to four weeks without oxygen.

Meet more extremophiles in Life at the Limits, now open at the Museum.

Image: Wikipedia

Tardigrade | jakattack555

Tardigrades (also known as waterbears or moss piglets) are water-dwelling, segmented micro-animals, with eight legs.

Tardigrades are classified as extremophilesorganisms that can thrive in a physically or geochemically extreme condition that would be detrimental to most life on Earth. For example, tardigrades can withstand temperatures from just above absolute zero to well above the boiling point of water, pressures about six times greater than those found in the deepest ocean trenches, ionizing radiation at doses hundreds of times higher than the lethal dose for a human, and the vacuum of outer space. They can go without food or water for more than 10 years, drying out to the point where they are 3% or less water, only to rehydrate, forage, and reproduce.

[Read more]

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Dr Warhol’s Periodic Table of Microbes

52. Te.  Thermococcus

Hot balls. If you have a Thermococcus, you have hot (thermo) balls (coccus).

Thermococcus is a salt water dwelling thermophile that enjoys living at high temperatures, from 70°C to 100°C (which is 158°F to 212°F, making it hotter than anything you or I could even imagine tolerating). In order to actually have water at 100°C, you need pressure (physics!). And guess what? Thermococcus loves pressure, some are barophilic and either need or tolerate pressures from 0.3 MilliPascals to 40 Millipascals. That’s 5,800 pounds per square inch, 835,000 pounds per square foot, or roughly the weight of 55 elephants standing on a piece of notebook paper.

If you find this fascinating, there are more than 30 species of Thermococcus to investigate. Most of the time you will find the organism hanging around deep sea hydrothermal vents. Not just one or two isolated vents; they have been found near Greece, the Guaymas Basin, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, New Zealand, and even in high-temperature oil reservoirs in Siberia.

And if that’s not enough, some have interesting nutritional requirements and only eat amino acids, and some resist extreme gamma radiation, like our buddy Rubrobacter. Thermococcus is considered to be an Archaean. As with all extremophiles, they are biochemically and metabolically adapted to live under intense conditions.

Thermococcus are Gram negative irregular spheres that are 0.6 to 2.0 microns in diameter.

Copyright 2016 Warhol.

Surprise! Fish Lurk in Antarctica’s Dark Underworld

In a cold and dark underwater world, where a never-ending rain of rocks keeps the seafloor barren, researchers were startled to find fish, crustaceans and jellyfish investigating a submersible camera after drilling through nearly 2,500 feet (740 meters) of Antarctic ice.

The swimmers are in one of the world’s most extreme ecosystems, hidden beneath the Ross Ice Shelf, roughly 530 miles (850 kilometers) from the open ocean. “This is the closest we can get to something like Europa,” Slawek Tulaczyk, a glaciologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz and a chief scientist on the drilling project, said, referring to Jupiter’s icy moon.

Continue Reading.


Deadly lake turns animals into statues

ACCORDING to Dante, the Styx is not just a river but a vast, deathly swamp filling the entire fifth circle of hell. Perhaps the staff of New Scientist will see it when our time comes but, until then, Lake Natron in northern Tanzania does a pretty good job of illustrating Dante’s vision.

Unless you are an alkaline tilapia (Alcolapia alcalica) – an extremophile fish adapted to the harsh conditions – it is not the best place to live. Temperatures in the lake can reach 60 °C, and its alkalinity is between pH 9 and pH 10.5.

The lake takes its name from natron, a naturally occurring compound made mainly of sodium carbonate, with a bit of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) thrown in. Here, this has come from volcanic ash, accumulated from the Great Rift valley. Animals that become immersed in the water die and are calcified. 

(Read more: New Scientist)


Water ‘microhabitats’ in oil show potential for extraterrestrial life, oil cleanup: Extremophilic ecosystems writ small | Science Daily

An international team of researchers has found extremely small habitats that increase the potential for life on other planets while offering a way to clean up oil spills on our own. Looking at samples from the world’s largest natural asphalt lake, they found active microbes in droplets as small as a microliter, which is about 1/50th of a drop of water.

“We saw a huge diversity of bacteria and archaea,” said Dirk Schulze-Makuch, a professor in Washington State University’s School of the Environment and the only U.S. researcher on the team. “That’s why we speak of an 'ecosystem,’ because we have so much diversity in the water droplets.”

[Read more]