May 24, 2021 | David F. Coppedge

Amazing Durability in Animals

Here are two very different animals with superman-like qualities of toughness and endurance.

Tardigrades survive impacts of up to 825 meters per second (Phys.org). In the old “human cannonball” circus acts, men were shot out of a cannon but landed safely in flexible nets. What if they had been shot against a wall of sand? The lowly tardigrade, or water bear, survived. Researchers at the University of Kent fired the miniature arthropods at sand and found they survived impacts at up to 825 meters per second (over 1,845 miles per hour). Add this feat to their list of impressive acts of durability:

The tardigrade, a water-dwelling micro-creature that measures less than half a millimeter long. From Wikimedia Commons.

Tardigrades are tiny eight-legged animals, on the order of 0.1 centimeter in length, of the phylum Tardigrada—they have been given the name “water bear” due to their appearance. Tardigrades have made the news in recent years due to their hardiness. They were the first known animal to survive the rigors of outer space; they are able to go without water for up to 10 years; they can survive extreme pressures and temperatures (including boiling water) and levels of UV radiation that are lethal to most other animals. To achieve these feats, the tiny creatures curl up into a ball and enter a sleep-like state. In this new effort, the researchers wanted to know if they could also survive high-speed impacts.

The purpose of the experiment was to see if they could survive an impact on the moon. Nature News says that would probably exceed their superpowers. But even if they would need retro rockets to land on the moon, the little water bears, which can probably be found in your back yard, are exceedingly hardy nonetheless.

Sad news for the tardigrades that were on board Israel’s Beresheet mission, which crash-landed on the Moon in 2019. Researchers have learnt that the microscopic animals, which can survive the vacuum of space and heavy-duty doses of radiation, wouldn’t have lived through the crash. Scientists put tardigrades into nylon bullets and fired them at various speeds (the tardigrades were in deep hibernation). The creatures survived impacts at speeds of up to 825 metres per second. “Above [those speeds], they just mush,” says astrochemist Alejandra Traspas.

See Dr Jerry Bergman’s article mentioning tardigrades (9 Nov 2020).

Swifts set new record for swiftness (Phys.org). The birds that zip by us on summer evenings are not only swift (flying at about 10 meters per second), but durable. Looking like high-tech jets, these little birds migrate long distances without stopping. They even exceeded the predictions of scientists at Lund University in Sweden.

According to new tracking data, common swifts travel 570 kilometers (more than 350 miles) on an average day—but they are capable of going much farther and faster. The maximum recorded distance in the study was more than 830 kilometers (more than 500 miles) per day over nine days.

Swifts skim the water of a pond, catching insects. They fly so fast they blur the shutter. (DFC)

Their migration is 8000 kilometers in distance (almost 5,000 miles) from Sweden to the Sahara. How do they do it? Eating as they go, they don’t need to store up reserves before lifting off. This strategy allows them to remain aloft for ten months out of the year, says New Scientist, only landing long enough to take care of breeding and nesting. They also time their migrations to take advantage of prevailing winds. With these tricks, swifts practically live in the air. Landing is the exception in their lives.

The two articles did not explain how the birds detect and intercept insects on the wind at high speeds. Bats use sonar, but how do birds do it? A paper in Frontiers in Physiology (2013) claims that oilbirds and swiftlets (a group within the swift family) use a kind of echolocation, too. See also an article about this in Phys.org 2 Aug 2017. For Darwinists, this would have to be an inexplicable case of convergent evolution to find echolocation or biosonar in whales, birds and bats.

Researchers used miniature data loggers to learn the superpowers of swifts, similar to how Karsten Egevang’s team used loggers to determine the route of Arctic terns. Those who have seen Illustra Media’s documentary Flight: The Genius of Birds remember the champion migrators that travel from pole to pole each year

These capabilities are far too exquisite for mere survival. Biology is a boundless display of supreme engineering that should inspire our awe.

 

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