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Tiny but tough: the tardigrades



Remains of the minuscule organisms known as tardigrades have been discovered in a subglacial Antarctic lake. The creatures, ranging in size from 0.1mm to 1.5mm, are often called water bears or moss piglets. The remains were found when scientists drilled and miles under the ice;

Aridity

Tardigrades, present in many habitats, can survive in other tricky circumstances. Research in the journal Molecular Cell describes how in dry conditions they coat themselves in glass-like proteins (vitrification).

Heat

The coma-like state tardigrades enter into desiccation is known as cryptobiosis and in it they have remarkable powers of endurance. In his book The Hidden Powers of Animals, Dr Karl Shuker claims that cryptobiotic tardigrades have been frozen in a helium to -272C (a degree above absolute zero): they have been heated to over 1

49C.

Space

In 2007, tardigrades became the first creatures to survive exposure to space. They cope with subzero temperatures, solar winds and exposure to a vacuum for days, where human beings would last at most. The discovery gained the species and place on the Endeavor mission of 2011;

A joint study by space scientists from Oxford and Harvard universities in 2017 found that tardigrades would survive the kind of astronomical events – large asteroid impacts, gamma-ray bursts, supernova blasts – which would lead to the annihilation of human life. "

(function (d, s, id)) [Tardigrades] render global sterilization an unlikely event," concluded the paper. {{
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