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By Pam Burke 

View from the North 40: Pamville News: Bearly truthful

 

Last updated 10/7/2022 at Noon



We all know a bear or two, right? Maybe not personally, but we know about black bears, grizzly bears, polar bears and giant panda bears. Perhaps you also have heard of Eurasian brown bears, Asiatic black bears, Andean bears, sun bears and the unfortunately named sloth bear. Surely you’ve heard of koala bears, which aren’t bears at all, and teddie bears, which aren’t real bears, either, but for different reasons.

If, though, you have never heard of water bears, you should sit back and be prepared to be amazed.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m going to lead off with the fact that the water bear is definitely not a member of the bear family. At all. Not even as second cousin twice removed.

Water bears, all 1,300 species of them, are known professionally as tardigrades, which are microscopic organism with about 40,000 cells, some of which comprise a brain, but none of which provide this creature with a heart or lungs because breathing a whole-body experience for them. Which is weird.

But still, it’s important to note here that water bears could inherit the earth — cockroaches be damned.

A cockroach can live 30 days without food and water. Big fat deal, in the most sarcastic sense, because water bears can dry up into nothing and still survive up to 30 years. Yeah, you just add water, and the the water bear puffs back to life, yawns, stretches, asks what year it is and then toddles off to find some food.

In 2007, 3,000 of them were, famously, shipped off into the great, black, cold, oxygen void of space for 12 days without any means of survival, but a canister to keep them contained in their seats, with their trays in the upright and locked position. Back on earth researcher found 68% of them had survived.

Cockroaches and humans would last less than two minutes in those conditions, then kaputzville.

Water bears have survived as an organism five global extinction events

They’re not cuddly, though. They look like the love child of a pig and a caterpillar — the itsy bitsy, 2/100ths-of-an-inch long, transparent, eight-legged love child that perhaps only a mother could love for its looks. This is OK, though, because some water bear species have males and females that mate, but others are hermaphrodites that take care of all their own business, no mate required. And still other species are female-only and basically reproduce by self-cloning. Now that’s some body autonomy right there.

While some of the 1,300 water bear species love the simple life — meadows, mosses and lichens, and long walks on the beach — others are hard-core survivalists.

Different species live in Antarctica freezing down to minus-460 degrees or in areas with high temps of 300 degrees, some in extreme high altitudes up to 20,000 feet or extreme pressures of the deep sea down to 13,000 feet below sea level, and some can live in hundreds of times greater levels of ionizing radiation than a human can survive.

Sources inside the Kremlin have told Pamville News reporters that it’s this extreme hardiness of the water bear that has caused the war in Ukraine.

Ever since that digitally manufactured image of a shirtless Vladimir Putin riding a grizzly bear took the internet by storm, the Russian leader has been trying to recreate that scene in real life. The trouble is, the sources said, the bears aren’t cooperating.

Even the infamous Russian circus and wrestling bears, don’t want any more to do with Putin than his potential war draftees do.

Stymied by this glitch, Putin sat in his bunker stewing and steaming until one of his trusted confidants, Boris Badenov, originally from Pottsylvania, joked that he should train a water bear because they are super cool and harmless to humans.

Putin, who is notoriously incapable of understanding a joke that isn’t actually a thinly veiled threat, said, “Hey, yeah, let’s make this happen,” only he said it in Russian with the full authoritarian weight of his leadership behind it, so his people started trying to figure out how to fix this size disparity between a grown human and a grown micro organism the size of a pin head.

Russian scientists under the ruse of a cooperative study at the nuclear disaster site in Chernobyl, Ukraine, discover over-sized water bears living in the areas that originally had the hottest radiation readings at the time of the disaster, the sources said.

His animal husbandry experts then suggested he needs crossbreeding to ensure a healthy grizzly-sized water bear population, and Putin’s solution, of course, is to cause enough damage to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to jumpstart a few giant water bears in that region Ukraine.

Ultimately, he wants the fertile farm ground of eastern Ukraine not to grow grain, but to develop as a breeding ground for his giant water bear herd, kind of like the area American Prairie touts as a nature reserve in Montana, only Putin’s would be an experimental animal reserve, or unnatural reserve as it were.

Putin is in this for the long haul, sources close to him have said, and he will do what it takes to stay alive and preserve his land-grab and the water bear project until he gets that photo-op riding shirtless, galloping an eight-legged pig-caterpillar through the water.

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Image a giant, pig-caterpillar replacing the Eurasian brown bear as the great Russian symbol

 

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