They’re near microscopic, eight-legged and basically indestructible.
Tardigrades, also known as “water bears” are officially the toughest creatures on the planet and should live on and on until our sun dies.
According to a new study published in Scientific Reports, tardigrades can survive any risk of extinction on the horizon and will be around for at least another 10 billion years.
The study looked at three possible doomsday events: asteroids, a supernova and gamma-ray bursts and found that in each the tardigrade would come out on top.
Dr Rafael Alves Batista, co-author and Post-Doctoral Research Associate in the Department of Physics at Oxford University, made it clear that human life is weak and fleeting.
“Without our technology protecting us, humans are a very sensitive species. Subtle changes in our environment impact us dramatically,” he said. There are many more resilient species’ on earth. Life on this planet can continue long after humans are gone.”
Bummer dude. But compared to tardigrades, our ability to survive is pretty pathetic.
Tardigrades can survive for up 30 years without food or water and can handle extreme conditions. They can endure temperatures ranging from -272 degrees up to 150 degrees and the pressures of the deep sea. In 2007, tardigrades became the first known animal to survive in space, lasting for 12 days.
There are over 1,000 known species of tardigrade and they vary in size from about 0.05 millimetre to just over a millimetre long. Under the microscope, they look pretty cute: kind of chubby and with a pig-like snout.
Although tardigrades can live anywhere they want, they prefer to hang in lakes or on moss. They were first discovered back in the eighteenth century by a German pastor. A few years later, an Italian biologist came up with the name “Tardigrada” which means “slow stepper”.
Tardigrades have been around for about 530 million years, which means they have already survived the five mass extinctions that the Earth has seen.
We are apparently already entering a sixth, but it will not bother the water bear who has seen much, much worse.