Which is the fictional critter?

Because nature is weird, and I like science fiction, which is the real creature, and which is the fictional critter?

Critter #1 is 1 mm long critter that:

  • Can survive in space and at the bottom of the Mariana Trench
  • Contains a set number of cells in its body
  • Can be rehydrated after over a century
  • Can survive thousands of times more radiation than a cockroach

Critter #2 is a bird that:

  • The males deliberately sets fires as a mating ritual
  • The males perform this ritual in pairs, in case one catches fire
  • After the fire spreads, the fires leave masses of cooked meat. The birds scrape off their meals with their distinctive, blade-like beaks

So… which critter is real, and which is not? For bonus points, in what book did the fictional critter appear?

Critter #1 is a real creature called a tardigrade or water bear. There are over 1500 varieties, and their properties vary, but they are pretty universally tough and nearly indestructible. They would make an excellent sci-fi critter.

Critter #2 is a fictional creature called a dragon bird from Vernor Vinge’s Marooned in Realtime. (Yes, I got started on my holiday reading list.) They are birds that exist 50 million years in the future. The excerpt containing them can be found here, fairly safe as spoilers go. In general, Vinge does critters very well, such as his tines species in A Fire Upon the Deep.


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