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Simply Scientific: Tardigrades

by Jad Abukasm October 15, 2019
Simply Scientific: Tardigrades

Objectively, humans shouldn’t have survived for so many years. In fact, compared to all other species, humans probably rank as the worst suited for living on our planet.

Cheetahs, for example, can outrun us without effort. Face to face against a gorilla and it’s an easy K.O. Not to mention some of the smallest organisms such as spiders or scorpions that, with a meaningless sting or bite, can lead to a fatal end. And those are only a handful of examples as explained in an Arte documentary.

On the opposite side of the spectrum lives a tiny eight-legged animal almost invisible to the naked eye that is literally invincible. In fact, that tiny beast survived all five mass extinctions! Tardigrades, commonly known as water bears or moss piglets, can thrive in the harshest conditions known to humans.

Measuring a mere 0.4 millimetres, scientists have recorded these creatures’ presence on top of Everest as well as in the deepest parts of the sea. Their physiology enables them to survive in high toxic or saline environment for years. Suppress their food and water supply? No problem! Their small bodies can endure pressures up to 1,000 times ours. Stick them in a 150º C oven and that’s all games. Absolute zero or -271º C is just an ice bath for them.

If that’s not impressive enough, tardigrades can survive the void of space. In 2007, a group of dehydrated tardigrades were brought into space, where they were exposed to non-gravity conditions. Bombarded with solar UV radiation, no source of oxygen, unimaginable temperatures emanating from the sun and freezing cold temperatures from the nothingness of outer space, 68 per cent of the group revived once they were brought back on Earth.

Their survival abilities are an example of perfectly engineered natural creatures. These small creatures make humans look like wimps.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

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