Tardigrades: Creatures That Can Survive... Anything? - Tardigrades & Water Bear Fun Facts

Tardigrades, otherwise known as “water bears,” are fascinating microscopic creatures that have the power to survive almost anything - including the harsh environment of outer space. 

In fact, a ton of them may have accidentally been spread all over the Moon, leading to potential contamination! 

Just before midnight on April 11, 2019 an Israeli Lunar Lander crashed on the Moon holding several “water bears” and other human artifacts. 

Considering some of the wild feats that water bears have achieved, it may be possible to revive the water bears from the Moon and that they could survive on the Moon. 

In today’s post we will be sharing with you some fascinating fun facts about Tardigrades otherwise known as water bears. 

Our video version of this post is fascinating. Watch it now here: https://youtu.be/EBkwN6kxjrE

You can also download the microbe-free podcast for listening anytime by clicking the podcast widget above. 

What are Water Bears? 

Tardigrades or water bears are small micro-animals (not microorganisms) that have a strong ability to survive extremely brutal environments. They can be revived from many damaging environments that would kill nearly every other creature. 

They are about .02 inches or .5mm when fully grown, requiring a microscope to view them. 

Even though they are as small as some single-celled organisms, they can have up to 40,000 cells inside of their body! 

They can be found in several different environments and have some impressive facts that we will now share with you. 

Withstanding Temperature

Tardigrades can withstand extreme temperatures. Scientists have found tardigrades able to survive temperatures as cold as -328F or -200C. They can withstand hot temperatures upwards of 300F or 148.9C. 

Withstanding Harshness

Surviving temperature isn’t just where it ends. Water bears can withstand radiation, boiling liquids, and massive amounts of pressure - up to 6x the pressure of the deepest part of the Ocean! 

These creatures can even withstand pure space outside of Earth for over a week (at least)! It’s possible as well that they can enter a dormant state and survive for much longer. 

Some scientists have conducted extensive research and decided that these mighty little creatures could even survive an extreme extinction event, such as a massive gamma ray burst or huge asteroid completely wiping out nearly everything on Earth! 

Surviving Death

In many of the above extreme conditions, the tardigrades enter a death-like state where they can then be later re-animated. This state is called cryptobiosis. 

They will curl into a dehydrated ball, called a tun, by retracting their head and legs. If they get reintroduced to water, they can return to life in just a few hours! 

While in cryptobiosis, tardigrades' metabolic activity gets as low as 0.01 percent of normal levels, and their organs are protected by a sugary gel called trehalose. They also seem to make a large amount of antioxidants, which may be another way to protect vital organs.

Water bears even create a protein to protect their DNA from radiation damage! 

In 2016, scientists revived 2 water bears stuck in this death-like state for 30 years. Another experiment in 1948 claimed to revive tardigrades from the death-like state for over 120 years! 

Another report we discovered identified a claim that tardigrades stuck in the death-like state for nearly 2,000 years in an ice sheet were revived! However, we weren’t able to extensively verify this claim. 

It should be noted that the true extent of tardigrade survival or whether they have the potential to be theoretically “immortal” is not known. It is very well possible that they could be revived from such an intense state. 

Food & Reproduction

There are several types of tardigrade species actually. Some reproduce assexually, whereas others reproduce sexually. 

Some will eat fluids to survive in water, such as sucking juice from algaes, lichens, and moss, whereas others will even hunt other tardigrades and eat them! 

Implications on Science & Research 

The discovery and research of tardigrades has posed interesting questions for us. 

For example, what if we’ve accidentally contaminated Mars & the Moon with tardigrades, messing with future research into potential alien microbial life? 

It’s possible that some tardigrades could be lying dormant on one of the few satellites that have left our Solar System, destined to one day become re-animated on a distant planet, one day bringing extensive life to that planet millions of years in the future. 

It’s also led to questions and research about biology, immortality, and human longevity. How can we use what we’ve learned from tardigrades to increase human lifespan by preventing DNA damage and other issues that lead to disease and death? 

One thing is for sure and it’s that extensive research about tardigrades is required, and the extent of the implications these creatures have is yet to be fully understood by the world. 

Got Wildlife or Pests? 

Tardigrades will typically not cause any problems for us humans, but other wildlife and pests such as raccoons, skunks, possums, ants, bees, etc. can! 

If you suspect a wildlife or pest-related problem, contact us and let us handle the problem for you. 

We specialize in safe & responsible animal/pest removal, and restore any damage that they may have caused + prevent it from happening again. 

Thanks! 
-Wildlife x Team International 

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