On Sunday we took Stretch to a new exhibit that just opened at the American Museum of Natural History. Called “Life at the Limits,” it explores how some species are “so creative in their responses to the usual wear, tear and stress of life, they seem to cheat death.”
Of all the examples of amazingly adaptive organisms shown, my favorite was the “Tardigrade.” These are tiny aquatic animals with little clawed legs; the first scientist who discovered them referred to them as “little water bears.” Hmm. Seems appropriate that one of the most hardy creatures should resemble a little bear that is very clever in adapting to its environment . . .
Anyway, these little guys have been around for at least half a billion years. What fascinates scientists is their ability, when the going gets tough, to defy death by imitating it. To quote: “When conditions turn life-threatening—whether from rapid drying, extremes in temperature, or spikes in salinity, they temporarily wind down their metabolism in a reversible process called cryptobiosis. They curl their limbs and head inside their body, shed more than 95 percent of their water and shrivel into a blob resembling a beer barrel. The metabolic processes dwindle to less than 0.01 percent of normal activity and they simply wait until conditions improve.”
Sounds like a great plan to me! When you’re having a bad day, just curl up into a blob and hibernate until things get better. Somehow I think we lost some good qualities along the road of evolution.
Stretch wants me to mention the highlight of his trip, which had nothing to do with the museum exhibit. On the way back to Penn Station the subway was so uncomfortably crowded we decided to get out at 42 Street and stroll back since it was such a warm sunny day. This subway stop leaves you at the Port Authority Bus Terminal where Stretch had never been and he was delighted to find the statue of Ralph Kramden outside the terminal . He’s been a big fan of the Honeymooners ever since our friend Joanne introduced him to the show. (Yeah, I tried pointing out that this is a “classic tv comedy” so doesn’t that make him “so last century” too and he told me that enjoying classic tv doesn’t count.)
With that in mind, I thought this would be a good opportunity to tell Stretch about the days when Joe and I belonged to a Honeymooners Fan Club back in the late 1980s. There was a convention held each year at a local college where the surviving stars of the show would come speak and answer questions. The best part: We got to wear raccoon caps and bulging eyeballs and do the “Hucklebuck.”
Stretch: Excuse me, I think I need to go “Tardigrade” my brain for a while after seeing that pic . . .