What Tardigrades Can Teach Us About Life in the Rainforest

We had been looking at the bottoms of trees,
as foresters, for over a century, and nobody ever knew
the top was so different from the bottom. Located hundreds of feet above the ground
in the canopies of forests is a unique ecosystem that is home to a potential cure for some
of the world’s deadliest diseases, microscopic tardigrades, and temporarily, this group of
daredevil researchers. With the advent of ropes and a few slingshots
that I invented along the way, we went to the mid-canopy and we went to the upper canopy,
which were really new exploration opportunities. Dr. Meg Lowman pioneered forest exploration
when all there was to use were cranes, hot air balloons, and walkways. Now, that toolkit is expanding, which is essential
to help combat threats such as deforestation and drought. Suddenly we have drones, and we also have
LiDAR, and some of the other aerial technologies that are giving us incredible, broad brush
strokes of things like canopy drought, distribution of canopy vines, or certain species of trees
that we’re trying to track that make it really tough to do, tree after tree,
from the ground. One of the areas of Meg’s expertise involves
the close relationship between insects and plants in the rainforest. I have to learn a lot about both. I do focus on
the tree as a system, and the tree as a support for so many other types
of life in the rainforest. But I do focus a lot on insects, because they
tend to be the dominant herbivore, and there are millions of insects up there,
and they are beautiful and gorgeous. The levels of light and rain hitting the top
of these forests cause canopies to be hotspots for biodiversity, accounting for likely fifty percent
of all land-based life on Earth. – Of that fifty percent life on Earth, probably
only ten percent has been seen or discovered by that handful of us that explore the canopy. How many species are in the rainforest? Maybe there are 5 million. But it truly is a guessing game, because maybe
we’ve missed a whole group. And I think water bears is a good example. That’s a whole phylum that nobody really explored
until about the last three or four years when I partnered with a water bear taxonomist. We can’t even count those creatures when we’re
up there, because we can’t see them with our naked eye. These water bears, or tardigrades, are tiny:
roughly half a millimeter. These creatures are most likely carried to
these towering trees by wind. If these extremophiles do not find their environment
to be satisfactory, they can enter a stage known as cryptobiosis, curling up into a ball
to survive extreme conditions for extended periods of time without food or water, and
coming back to life when conditions have improved. New species of tardigrades continue to be
discovered and analyzed, given that their cellular construction
could reveal clues to radiation protection, and their genetics could
lead to answers surrounding resiliency. This is just one of the areas that Meg comes
across in her work with trees and insects that underscores how important this resource
can be for humans. In a few cases, pharmaceutical companies have
made that magical link between plants and medicines. And so it’s given me a really wonderful ability
to work with the local shaman and the villagers in a lot of countries where the medicinal
value of the trees is so important. The leaves that aren’t eaten by insects tend
to be the ones that have sequestered chemical compounds that can in turn be turned into
medicines. We now realize we can use the insect damage
to figure out which trees might have more medicinal values. Meg’s research has even more
urgency, especially if the rate of deforestation continues at the current pace. Using satellite analysis, NASA predicts that
in just 40 years, about a billion hectares of rainforest land, about the size of Europe,
will have disappeared. In 100 years, rainforests will be gone altogether. Forests are essential to our life. We have so many easy ways of connecting ourselves
to trees. I mentioned medicines, fruits, home to biodiversity. Soil conservation. Carbon storage is a huge one. It’s hard to sell people on the fact that
they should keep millions of creatures alive when they probably can’t understand their
importance value. I think a good analogy is that in an airplane
there are a lot of redundant screws, and maybe you don’t need every single one to fly the
plane, but at some point, if they keep dropping off of the machine,
it’s not going to work anymore. We know that each species has a role in this
ecosystem, and we need to keep that system healthy. How many can we lose? Probably some, but not all. And where is that tipping point? We’re not really sure. So the more that we can protect those species,
the better off we are. For more episodes of Science in the Extremes,
check out this one right here. Don’t forget to subscribe and come back
to Seeker for more episodes. Thanks for watching!

Comments 100

  • That's one fucked up 🐻

  • That aeroplane analogy is on point

  • This channel is one of a few Oases

  • That Spider. . .

    Holy Jesus! >o<

  • Hi there! Long time viewer third time commenter. Would you please start offering your content in 4K video resolution? It makes for a much better experience. 2018 is the year of 4K. Embrace the future yo! love your channel! Keep.the vidros coming .The 4K resolution revolution is now! #4K4EVAR

  • 1:20 i can't… stop…. air… doodle eyes!!

  • What Tardigrades Can Teach Us About Life in the Rainforest?

    A: curl up in a ball and hope that things get better and then be on your way

  • Not first! 👳💣💥

  • Maybe the Tardigrade is so tolerant because it’s been called a “Tard” so often.

  • I love Seeker, please stay true in this era of YouTube uncertainty

  • Aq yavurları like atın

  • I think it's really sad that the only way to protect the rainforest and other natural environments is to sell it as economic medicine ventures.
    Protecting nature and biodiversity should be enough in itself.

  • Wow she really does a lot of hard work you have to think about it in order to find new species and explore you have to know what everything is that has been discovered first

  • They're not very good researchers if they didn't know the bottom of the tree was different from the top. Lol

  • Tardigrades taught me that I'm a stupid idiot and they're fat idiots.

  • Basically AYURVEDA

  • 46

  • Captain Tardigrate, defender of the multiverse

    I hope i'm not the only one. Check Ian Miller's channel to see what this is about

  • Lulz, hippies. Get with the times.

  • i find it appalling that people can just destroy ecosystems without any feeling…

  • Tardigrates donot exist
    Is more lies made by the gringos who are manipulated in their operating system by the devil and they think they are doing something good for lying.

  • Wow! I thought that South Park made it all up!!!

  • deforestation needs to be made a capital offense

  • Don't be shocked when big pharma starts funding the destruction of the rainforests. They really hate competition.

  • That was awesome.

  • If we keep saving people, eventually the planet will run out of space. This comment is really controversial, because no one wants to deal with what the solution is.

  • I really liked the video, the music was a bit too loud thou.

  • I fell uncomfortable

  • So Tardigrades are invincible and they are millons and billions of them?

    Can they defeat Thanos?

  • They're leveling the rain forest for grazing lands for livestock, Terrible Situation go vegan for your health and for the health of the planet.

  • Unbelievable, that tree graveyard… why?
    People are so greedy, selfish & stupid.

  • These scientists are heros and I wish them the best.

  • Dear Miss peg… All the answers to ur quest can be found in India where there is 108 books written about all the natural medicines on earth (in the past and future) …..

  • Its a space whale from star trek discovery

  • In 100 years the rainforest will be gone… Humans are a disease to this planet… They can't control themselves.

  • omg that slingshot is so clever.

  • I will be the one to save all the animals and reverse climate change and pollution

  • Those things had to come from space. Probably on an asteroid or something.

  • I'm so saddened by man's blindness about the need for insects, organisms, trees, and everything else that lives in the rainforest, we are quickly killing off our life support mechanism for the sake of profit. God forgive us.

  • Hello to all the GCSE class's watching this

  • Where's Jörg Sprave when you need him?

  • black alert!

  • Weed

  • So even seeker has started click baiting all us science nerds here…please don't…

  • So globgogabgalab had all those books to teach us about life


  • https://youtu.be/JXIFe-fZZ-A
    Kaali was a demon

  • The cutest creatures 🙂

  • Americans….

    Stop mother fucking building your houses with wood.

  • Those who cut down trees illegally should be shot on sight. Seriously, these guys are not just threatening some trees, but also the survival of the species we call homo sapiens sapiens. Sapiens as in "wise". How wise is a species really that kills of its own life support system? Using modern science as well as researching ancient medicines for their efficacy we can find ways to live sustainably. A way of living that doesn't destroy the ecosystem we rely on to survive. The planet can do without humans, but we so far still need this planet the way it is.

  • I guess the tard in tardigrades is there because cool kids will call it retarded?

  • Humans are such a plague on this planet. What would even give us the right to find a new home?…We'd just find the first shiny thing and start cutting throats over it.

  • What makes me angry about the destruction of the rainforests is that there is an incredibly simple solution to that problem, but people won't accept it because it's not politically correct.  I guess we're not worth saving if we can't put the well being of the planet above PC culture.

  • What was that bird at 2:03 called?

  • https://youtu.be/-bpdz2Zv_Hs

  • Tardigrades usually don’t live in extreme conditions. They endure extreme conditions while waiting for better ones.

  • Tardigrades usually don’t live in extreme conditions. They endure extreme conditions while waiting for better ones.

  • You're a bunch of stupid hippies wasting tax dollars to save trees.

  • Everybody keeps protesting about the Brazilean rain forrest and extracting things out of there claiming that the state does nothing but developed countries just gets everything out their countries and now say that everyone else should save the trees, why put the finger in others country (mainly undeveloped ones that suffer with your "reserch" that does not pay a thing for development of medicines oor other well priced things) and political strategies when noone else did in their residenses (say ONE acctually big protected area), that just reinforces the idea that USA doesnt give the minimum of care for others and their economy if that helps their own…

    Still like your show, but it isnt just sad that the rainforrest is being deflorestated and is causing desertification in many areas, is that you claim to help but there is not any real thing for saving it, most of the progams to save it are from Brazil, and almost never have support from other countries, and even in Brazil is basically the Amazônia Legal states… So no one does anything and THAT IS sad.

    People claiming things is worst than doing nothing, and producing things out of Brazilian rainforrest is another error because all the country suffers with the high prices and the technology provided by its natural reserves

  • These people must have some crazy big biceps.

  • Watching this as a forestey major made me feel so strange. Just the way they described some procedures was odd.

  • It's hard to see how it isn't outright illegal to continue this malpractice It quite literally puts our species' existence at stake, at the very least.

  • I LOVE Tardies!! Magic little creatures that will loooooooong outlive our species! 💖 Water bears=adorable!
    Jenn 💖 in Canada 🍁

  • But big pharma will loose profits. You cant make profits on a healthy human silly

  • I thought Star Trek Made these things up LOL .

  • The ppl either starve or eat by cutting down forests since theyre in a developing nation. If you truly cared about the deforestation, you would stop giving them money for tree products showing them that they cant make money off of it. Stop outsourcing products/services if you truly care about anything you say you care about smh

  • Whenever I see pictures of how much rainforest was already lost I get so depressed

    Not enough people care, and I just don't understand this anthropogenic mind set

  • It should be a TV show

  • The vast majority of co2 comes from the jungles of the world. If "climate change" is real shouldn't we be mowing down all the jungles? …but of course AGW is bullshit:)

  • That's the pothead from Alice in Wonderland.

  • beautiful video

  • yeah learning to live like a tardigrades is important, at the point where humanity cause so much damage to the nature where food and water are no where to be found, just curl into a ball and wait….for millions of years or even longer….

  • if you hate massive deforestation happened in countries located in tropical areas, then it is a way better move if you make a rainforest in your own country than stop the deforestation, such things as politics and economy just won't stop even at the brink of total destruction

  • Captain tardigrade defender of the multiverse

  • The survival champions my favourite phylum but not in school text books even in class 12

  • Then give those who need jobs and money to survive an alternative. If you can also take greed out of the human spirit then maybe there is hope, but seriously there is not so it does not matter. Thank you for trying.

  • Every species haves a role even humans. We are supposed to protect nature with are intelligence.

  • Watch more about tardigrade on my channel

  • There is no evidence that the "rainforests" will be gone, this is simply not true.

    The world is not in a state of deforestation, this trend was reversed and in all honestly much of the concerns were exaggerated and or misunderstood for years by activist (some purposefully misinformed the public). This is not to say there were and are no concerns still. But just as with many of the problems our planet and civilization face, we (humans) have adjusted and reinforced natures biodiversity in many ways never capable at any animals… there is a good story out there that most are afraid to admit in fear of removing an emphasis on maintaining attention to the concerns we discover with respect to our roles in nature and our impact, but much activism (why needed at times) has like so many of "organizations" strived for surviving what are typically the end of their original purpose, even to the detriment or at least in spite of their original goals.

    To be clear there are areas were deforestation is still a serious concern, but even in many of these areas the trend has reversed or slowed significantly. There is more protected land now than ever before, and most places now (and many had already for the last 200 hundred years) have practiced REFORESTATION and much of the fauna and flora have adapted to the conditions of forest management (the use and management of large areas of forest, not limited to but most that of logging), this means in areas with long standing logging practices, there is often more forest than less compared to before the forest management began.

  • We're the rain forest already supposed to be gone?

  • You shouldn't put pictures of non-insects when she's talking about insects. It makes Seeker look stupid.

  • I identify as a tardigrade …………………….. I'm getting re-classified on my driver's license.

  • i used to love tardigrade , until star trek STD ruin it for me

  • Is it weird that I want a water bear plush?

  • I love learning about it, but next time could you please turn down the background music?

  • 100 years from now armchair students are going to be like "you had to actually go to the forest!?"

  • The Earth has gone through mass extinctions before, the Holocene extinction is just the newest one. If the human species dies, oh well, we are just another animal after all, we just evolved consciousness to increase our will to life. Nature does not give a damn about you.

  • Spin up the Spore Drive!

  • I love the screw analogy!

  • Save The Rainforest!

  • 1:27 we can always throw that arm away

  • The title didn't really have anything to do with the video 🤔Still a good video though.

  • Kinda light on the tardigrade. 😒

  • I hate to say it, but we passed the tipping point a ways back. The domino's are already falling and it's accelerating.

  • Save The Trees!

    n shit.

  • We’re not the first group of people to call the earth home.im willing to bet that every animal in the rainforest was put there by our pre flood humans

  • If I could shrink myself down to microscopic size and live amongst the water bears then I would…especially to escape the Political shit show that is currently playing out in the "civilized" world.

  • There is a people on this planet who have declared war against nature…the anti logos people..but eventually they will die off too…

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