"Smoky bears" - Tardigrades of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



As part of the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP), we have collected nearly 600 samples from soil/decomposed leaf litter, lichens and mosses on trees, and stream sediment and periphyton within all 19 permanent ATBI plots, with additional samples from caves, rock lichens, seeps, and bird nests. Tardigrades have been extracted from samples using centrifugation with Ludox AM™ and mounted on individual microscope slides in Hoyer's medium for identification under phase and DIC microscopy. Prior to our study, only three species of tardigrades had been reported from a few samples in the park. We have now examined over 9000 slides from 401 samples and recorded 73 species, 14 of which we believe may be new to science. Using Estimates 7.5 software for each of the major tardigrade habitats, we estimate a total species richness of ≈96 limno-terrestrial species in the park. In this paper, we discuss challenges inherent in tardigrade taxonomy and the need for revisions of species groups.