Christopher Tozier is the author of Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus, the award-winning, middle-grade fantasy series set in the wilds of central Florida and published by Pineapple Press. He was selected as a 2011 State of Florida Artist Fellowship recipient and his poetry has appeared widely.
There are many strange creatures in Junonia, the underground world beneath Florida in Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus. None are weirder than the giant tardigrades. Several readers have attempted to draw tardigrades based on their reading of the book.
Whatever they imagine, there is no doubt that giant tardigrades are ruthless predators. Their toothless mouths and giant clear bodies prowl the tunnels and vast underground lakes of Junonia looking for echinoids to swallow whole.
Many readers are surprised to learn that tardigrades are actually real animals and they are even weirder in real life than they are in the book!
Tardigrades are tiny, no more than a millimeter in length. They have eight legs, eight feet with claws, a head, and a body that makes them look like tiny bears. This is why they are often called water bears. They are unlike any other animal that we know! They can survive in extreme conditions, even in outer space, which has caused some to speculate that they arrived on Earth by riding asteroids from another planet.
Even better, there are almost certainly tardigrades in your backyard. There are still countless discoveries to be made about tardigrades and you can be a part of it!
Here is a picture of an actual tardigrade. He's upside down! Can you see his face?