(light dramatic music) – There they are. Maybe immortal creatures,
maybe aliens, let’s find out. (dynamic jungle music) (melodic orchestral music) The state of Florida has long been a wellspring of adventure for the “Brave Wilderness” crew, even ranging back to our earliest days, we’ve been exploring this
state’s natural wonders well before we even had a YouTube channel and from the crocodiles of Turkey Point to the creatures of the Everglades, one thing is for sure, Florida’s habitats are robust
and full of unusual species and it just so happens today’s
adventure takes us back to one of its beautiful
but hidden natural springs. In the past you’ve seen
us target these locations to film one of Florida’s
largest marine species, the manatee, but what if I
told you there’s something else living amongst the crystal clear waters, something you can’t see,
but exist by the millions and something that might also
not even be from this world? Today we aim to show you
an unexplainable creature from one of Earth’s smallest dimensions. Hey everybody, I’m Mark Vins and we are back in the state of Florida for another adventure in one
of their natural springs. Today I’m joined by my
good friend, Hunter Hines or excuse me, Dr. Hunter Hines. – Thank you.
– Hunter, why don’t you tell everybody what you’re a doctor of.
– Right, so my PhD is in microbiology. – Microbiology, so I think
that pretty much gives it away, that we’re not looking
for big animals today, we are looking for the smallest creature that we’ve ever featured
on “Brave Wilderness,” but in order to find these creatures, we can’t do it on land, we gotta get out there
and get in the water and you’ve got some sample tubes here. – Ready to go. – And what exactly are we looking to find and put into these samples? – Yeah, we’re looking
for tardigrades today. – Taridgrades also known as a Water Bear and we’re gonna find
out a little bit later why they get that nickname and we’re also gonna answer the question, are these animals immortal and are they from outer space? I know that sounds silly,
but believe it or not, there are actually rumors
out there for good reason, that these might be
aliens living amongst us. So without further ado, let’s
get our snorkel gear together, get out in the water and
find us some tardigrades. So what are we looking to
put in these collection tubes today, not just water, we
wanna look for algae or– – No, we’re gonna dive down,
collect algae and bacteria, there’s like microbial mats on the very bottom of the spring. – Right, and I’m guessing by
the number of collection tubes we have here in this bag, we have to take all these samples, ’cause you really never know what you get, until you’re in the lab
under the microscope. This is the shallow portion of the spring, there’s actually a deeper
portion in the back, where we’re gonna have
to do some free diving. – Let’s do it, yeah.
– Okay, and that’s the boil. – That’s the boil, where all
the water comes from, yeah, there’ll be a current down there too. – Ooh, fun!
– Yeah. – Okay, cool, we’re gonna
knock out the easy work first and then we’re gonna head to the boil and challenge ourselves a little bit, so let’s get in the water. Though it may sound refreshing, the 72 degree water of this
spring is actually quite frigid, but it’s home to numerous types of life from millions of microorganisms
to fish like gar, tilapia and the bizarre pleco fish and if you come here
during the winter months, these hidden pools are also home to a population of Florida manatees. As you may have guessed, we can’t exactly bring microscopes from the labs into the spring to pinpoint where the
tardigrades are living, so we will aim to canvas
the entire body of water, where Hunter conducts
his permitted research taking small samples from
a variety of locations. That’s one! They’re hard to see from the surface, but as soon as you enter the water, you’ll notice the bottom is
covered in moss like blankets of material growing in every direction. There’s an interesting one right there. These are called microbial mats, a multi-layered sheet of microorganisms that are the feeding
ground of the Water Bears, so hopefully we were at the right place, because from our view,
the mats were everywhere. However collecting these
samples at the bottom is definitely easier said than done. I don’t know how well I did on that one. I only got, I thought I put
a ton of substrate in there, there’s only that little bit. This spring is a unique
ecosystem and solely exists due to a boil at the center of the spring, which pumps 146 million
gallons of water each day from an underwater cavern. The constant flow of new water creates a strong, circular
current, which makes swimming and collecting our samples
all the more difficult. It’s not that easy, it’s
actually a lot more difficult than I thought it would be and I’m glad I’m getting the practice now, because we’re about to do
some free diving up to 40 feet and that’s gonna take a little more skill. So I’ll give that to you, Hunter. – Thank you.
– I’ll take the GoPro. – Alright.
– Alright, we’re almost to the
deepest part of the spring and from what I hear,
some of the best places to find the tardigrades,
alright, let’s go. As we filled our last samples, our final test came into sight, we had reached the entrance to the boil. We finally made it, I’ve got one last large
collection tube here and this one’s gonna take a
little effort, it’s pretty deep, it’s like a catacomb of fallen trees and it’s where the good stuff is, we’re gonna go for the gold on the final large
collection tube of the day, alright, here we go, I’m gonna
give you the GoPro, Hunter. I’m gonna put the mask on. Alright, wish me luck, here we go. There it stood, a craggy,
log-snagged crater 10 feet wide and really,
who knows how deep? The depth of its entrance was nearly 20 feet below the surface and due to the low oxygen
levels in the water, it made this particular location a natural breeding ground for Water Bears and from what Hunter tells
us, huge Water Bears. The tricky part was
going to be free diving against the strong current from the boil while maintaining a steady
hand to collect good samples and oh yeah, no scuba here, I was going to need to
hold my breath a lot. But after a few successful
plunges into the deep, I collected a good amount of samples from mats lining the walls. (uplifting melodic music) That’s a sample from the
boil, that’s the one, that’s gonna be the big
Water Bears in that one. Alright, time to head to the lab, got a little swimming to do
before we get there though. Hopefully it was worth the effort, because both Hunter and I were exhausted, but that wasn’t going to stop us today, we were determined to
find these tardigrades. Woo, man, what a swim, that was awesome! Well, we did it, we filled
all the collection tubes, Hunter, do you feel good about it? – Really good.
– Alright, so now we’ve just got
to get back to the lab and see what we found,
– Alright. – Alright, let’s do it. There they are, the samples,
maybe immortal creatures, maybe aliens, let’s find out. (light melodic music) After packing up from our expedition, it was time to head back to Hunter’s lab at the Harbor Branch
Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce, Florida. There we would prepare our
samples for various slides to be viewed under the microscopes, some pretty hi tech microscopes too and then we would truly learn what was living in our collection tubes and I find this to be one of the most exciting
aspects of microbiology, because every expedition has the chance of making a new discovery. Let’s start with step one, what’s the first step?
– Alright, have a seat. – Okay, cool, gotta sit down.
– Gotta sit. – Can you tell I’m excited? The scientist has asked me
to take a seat, alright. – Alright, you can open it up for me, now we’re gonna actually get
down into the sediment layer. – [Mark] I see what you’re doing. – [Hunter] We’re gonna put
that over this chamber here. – I knew going into this,
that there was a slim chance of actually finding Water Bears, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack, a microbial haystack. Fortunately with Hunter’s experience and our determination to
dive deep into the boil, we collected some of the
best samples possible and lo and behold,
managed to find a surprise in the very first preparation. That’s like a lot of pressure off, like you know, we did all this work and I’m like if we didn’t
find at least one Water Bear. – Maybe we only found one? – Don’t let that one out of your sight. – Alright. We’re going to put this
over the Water Bear. Alright, so see, that’s sucked right up. Put it over that slide, so now we put a cover
slip over very carefully. Now in your hands is three tardigrades. – Oh wow, three? I thought we were just getting one. – Alright, now we’re gonna put the slide on the big microscope. Now we’re gonna try to
find our tardigrade again, let me know when you see it. – [Mark] Oh, see something! Wow! Oh, my goodness, look at that! You can definitely see the claws. – [Hunter] Yeah, you were
swimming with these today, I mean, they’re all over you. – You know,
– Yeah? – I swallowed a little water down there. – [Hunter] Well then you definitely have more than one tardigrade
inside of you right now. – Oh, are they gonna be there forever? – You should name ’em maybe?
– Name ’em? They’re like my new friends for life? I hope not.
– I’m sure you’ll be fine. – Okay, you know, I think we
can go ahead and establish why they’re called Water Bears,
it looks like a little bear, it looks like a little bear with claws and they happen to live in water. – In water, scientists are very clever. – Yeah.
– Water Bear. – Looks like a bear, lives
in the water, Water Bear, that’s why they get their name. A lot of times when
you’re looking at things under a microscope like this, you’re looking at very primitive life, this is a microanimal.
– Animal, yeah, very complex. – [Mark] So this is the brain, the brain, you can actually
see it really well. Does it have a nervous system as well? – [Hunter] Yes, a central nervous system. – Central nervous system, great, so it’s all coming, all
the motor functions– – Coming from here.
– Yeah, and you can see the eyes, one eye, two eye and is this really a primary
function of the claws for grabbing food or is
it just for everything, like holding on?
– So the claws are really just to grab on to
the food they’re feeding on and they have these sucky mouth parts and they kind of shoot out and
that’s what grabs the prey. – Like a proboscis?
– Yeah, very similar. – Or like kind a little
bit like a blood worm, that has a mouth part that comes out, this is a hungry Water Bear and it looks a little rambunctious, so we wanna find one that’s
maybe had a full meal and it’s down to take a nap.
– Yeah, it’s hanging out. – Yeah, so let’s go ahead and do that. I feel a little pressured for some reason, I don’t know why, I don’t feel like I should
have this much pressure, this is like, I tell you,
I’m like back in school. – Yeah.
– Oh, alright. Oh wow, yep, I see one. Oh, my goodness, is that eggs on its back?
– Yeah, very good, very good. – We were researching the other day and we heard that eggs are
actually really hard to find. – [Hunter] They actually are quite rare in freshwater samples, yeah.
– Really? – [Hunter] This is a very good find, yeah. – Yes! Okay, so should I extract this one? – Yeah, so now you’re gonna, yeah, take the pipette carefully
as it is fragile glass. Aim it straight over this, steady hands. – [Mark] This is not as
easy as it looks, folks. Are we okay?
– Let’s take a look. – Maybe, maybe, hey, it’s my first time. – You wanna sit in the Captain’s chair? – Okay, the Captain’s seat, just going right for the advanced. Yeah, here we go. Oh, nailed it.
– Ooh! – That’s there. Wow! – [Hunter] Nice, here we
have a Momma tardigrade. – [Mark] It’s my Bear! That is amazing.
– How do you feel? – I feel really accomplished, it is not an easy process at all. – You wanna put the prism in right here, this is getting DIC–
– Oh, oh, oh, oh! – Just push it till it clicks. – Okay.
– So you’ll hear a click, yeah. It’s clicked. – Obviously the click. – Okay.
– And when do we time travel? – [Hunter] This is where the– – When’s the DeLorean take off? Okay.
– Alright. Now you’re gonna move this to the six. Too far. – Wait, there?
– Yeah, cool. – I’m beginning to feel like
I don’t know what I’m doing. – Look at that! Beautiful. – Apparently I’m doing something correct, check this out, okay. The world’s smallest bear right there, right there on screen, that is so cool, it just goes to show you
life exists everywhere, you know sometimes on “Brave Wilderness,” we’re looking for big stuff, but now we might need to rethink things, ’cause there’s a lot of small stuff too. – Let’s take a look. (light melodic music) So tardigrades actually
shed their exoskeleton, so the old tardigrade Momma’s
skin is where those eggs stay, it kind of protects them. – Okay, so tell me about cryptobiosis. – Yes, so cryptobiosis, this animal can basically shut
down its entire metabolism, so it goes to an almost deathlike state, nothing is functioning, nothing’s
happening, it’s not moving and it can stay in this
state for a very long time. Importantly though it can turn this off and come back to life if you will. – And how many years can it do this? – At least 20, maybe more.
– 20 years? – So it can be dead almost, – Ah-huh.
– but not die? That’s what I’m hearing, folks,
is that what you’re saying? – Yes, but it’s not immortal, we could kill this tardigrade now, we’re not gonna do it,
but tardigrades can die, but they’re very good at surviving. – Let’s take it to question
number two, is this an alien? I know that there’s a lot
of research being done with this specific creature in space and it can live in space, correct? – Yeah, it can survive the
ionizing radiation in space, yeah and the vacuum of space as well. – Okay, so can it possibly
have traveled through space to get here, I mean, is that a stretch? I don’t know. – So I think it’s better to flip it, so if you wanna send a creature
off of Earth into space, I think tardigrade is
your number one choice. – Okay, that’s a more sound way to put it, I don’t think we’re gonna get
a definitive answer today, certainly not from the doctor here, because I mean, he has a reputation, but given its special traits, this creature has a lot
to offer not only science, but humans, ’cause you know, we’re interested in space travel, this creature clearly is suited for it. – Yeah.
– What can we learn from this? – How do we protect our DNA in space? I mean, radiation really damages us, it doesn’t affect the tardigrade, that also has DNA, so what is it doing and how can we apply that to human health and that’s a question
we can hopefully answer by looking at these creatures. – Man, that is so cool. Well, Hunter, doctor, thank
you for having us out today, that was amazing, if you wanna see more of what Hunter’s doing
out at the Harbor Branch, make sure to check out
his Instagram account, it is incredible, you can find him @microbialecology on Instagram or in the link in the description below and don’t forget, subscribe,
hit that Notification bell, so you don’t miss a second
of the action ahead. I’m Mark Vins, be brave, stay wild, we’ll see you on the next adventure. Let’s take another look at those claws. If you enjoyed witnessing one of the smallest
creatures we’ve ever found, make sure to go back
and watch our encounters with our favorite sea
cow, the Florida manatee. – Alright, we’ve got manatees surrounding the boat right now, we’re trying to be as quiet as possible, we don’t wanna disturb them and this is the moment of truth, I am diving in with the manatees, this
is gonna be awesome. (light jungle music)