Image credit: University of Wisconsin- La Crosse
By Robert Krulwich and Adam Cole
Why, I wonder, are both these things true? There is an animal, a wee little thing, the size of a poppy seed, that lives in lakes and rivers and eats whatever flows through it; it’s called a gastrotrich. It has an extremely short life.
Hello, Goodbye, I’m Dead
It hatches. Three days later, it’s all grown up, with a fully adult body “complete with a mouth, a gut, sensory organs and a brain,” says science writer Carl Zimmer. In 72 hours it’s ready to make babies, and as soon as it does, it begins to shrivel, crumple … and usually within a week, it’s gone. Dead of old age.
Sad, no? A seven-day life. But now comes the weird part. There’s another very small animal (a little bigger than a gastrotrich) that also lives in freshwater ponds and lakes, also matures very quickly, also reproduces within three or four days. But, oh, my God, this one has atotally different life span (and when I say totally, I mean it’s radically, wildly, unfathomably different) from a gastrotrich.
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