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biology articles

The tardibot

I work with fascinating creatures. Bryozoans, brachiopods, nemerteans, priapulids, echinoderms, acoelomorphs, among others! However, despite their splendor, they are little known. Perhaps because they are small or because they are difficult to find, they remain anonymous among the public.

But their charisma is so strong that from time to time one or another ends up becoming a celebrity. They start as curiosities in blogs, become characters in comic strips, and even immortalize themselves as memes on social media. I find it amazing when they appear in works of art and pop culture.

This was the case with tardigrades, those animals that survive extreme temperatures in the vacuum of outer space. Friendly creatures, they have shed their label of obscurity to become internet sensations.

Tardigrade ngram
Tardigrade popularity is peaking. Source: Google Ngram Viewer

Anyway. There I was, reading the book Agency (the sequel to The Peripheral) by William Gibson, one of my favorite science fiction writers, when I came across the following quote:

Now her tardibot answered the blue door, like an eight-legged raccoon in a small antique biohazard suit, its head an unpleasantly folded foreskin-like affair, with a central toothy ring of what he took to be mirror-polished steel. It seemed to peer up at him, however eyelessly.

Agency by William Gibson

Astounded, I knew exactly what it was about. Alright, the name gives it away, tardibot couldn’t be more explicit. But the quote is essentially a description of the most famous image of tardigrades on the internet:

Tardibot
Image Credit & Copyright: Nicole Ottawa & Oliver Meckes / Eye of Science / Science Source Images / From Astronomy Picture of the Day

I hope that more extraordinary invertebrates gain the deserved prestige and occupy more and more space in books, movies, and series out there.

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