A new research revealed yet another impressive survival feat of tardigrades, micro-animals known for having developed a great resistance against things sure to kill others.
Also known as water bears, these micro-animals are segmented, water-dwelling eight legged creatures. They can be found most anywhere from the deep seas to mountain tops, rainforests and even Antarctica.
These microscopic animals became famous thanks to their capability of withstanding even the most extreme conditions. Previous studies proved that they could survive in 150-degrees heat as well as significant pressure levels, some six times what can be found in an ocean trench. They can also seemingly survive even 30 years without water or food.
Tardigrades Possess Key Survival Elements
Harvard and Oxford University scientists conducted a new study, looking to further test this micro-animal’s resistance. However, they placed them in very case-specific situations. Namely, they checked to see if they would survive asteroid impacts and gamma ray bursts.
They also wanted to see if they would be capable of surviving in case stars exploded in the form of supernovas. Study results are available in the Scientific Reports journal.
Based on the research results, the team determined that tardigrades will most likely survive most future catastrophic situations. They are likely to outlive humanity and to be the last ones standing as the Sun dies out. This would also mean that water bears could still be around even five billion years from now.
The researchers also looked to find out what would kill this incredibly resilient micro-animal. They established that it would take an event which sets the Earth’s oceans boiling to off water bears.
Such a scenario would only become possible if a supernova exploded within 0.14 light-years from the planet or if a gamma ray burst closer than 40 light-years away. Still, most such situations are just theories, and scientists consider them to be quite unlikely.
“A lot of previous work has focused on ‘doomsday’ scenarios on Earth – astrophysical events like supernovae that could wipe out the human race. Our study instead considered the hardiest species: the tardigrade,” states David Sloan, a study co-author and Oxford University Physicist.
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