Top 10 Facts About Tardigrades

Tardigrades are among the strongest creatures on the planet. They’ve evolved to be able to exist in practically any environment and to endure almost everything. Some tardigrades can withstand conditions that would kill most living things, including extremes that are unknown on Earth.

Tardigrades, often known as moss piglets or water bears, are microscopic animals with long, chubby bodies and scrunched-up heads. They have eight legs and four to eight claws on each of their hands. These little critters are almost indestructible and can even survive in space, despite their oddly cute appearance.

Here are a few of our favorite facts about Tardigrades, one of the most fascinating animals on the planet.

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Scanning electron micrograph of an adult tardigrade
Photo by Goldstein lab

01. Tun State of Tardigrades- Literally a Life Changing Decision!

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Under extreme and unfavorable conditions, they enter a state of suspended animation known as the “tun” state, in which the body dries out and looks like a dead ball. Their metabolism may drop to as low as 0.01 percent of its normal rate in this situation. Tardigrades can live as tuns for years, if not decades, in order to survive dry and severe circumstances. While in the tun condition, tardigrades are easily dispersed by wind and water.

Going into the tun state is a dangerous move. When a tardigrade dries out fully, it becomes passive and incapable of actively avoiding threats in its environment. A dormant tardigrade may not perish from thirst, but it may be eaten.

02. Visible – Not Visible

These animals resemble the “Alice in Wonderland” hookah-smoking caterpillar in appearance. When we consider their size, Most of the tardigrades cannot be seen by the naked eye because they are on the edge of visibility. A normal tardigrade is about 0.5 mm (0.02 inch) long, with even the largest tardigrades measuring less than 2 mm (0.07 inch). Although some larger tardigrades can be seen with the naked eye, we’re unlikely to obtain a good glimpse without at least a low-power microscope because they have see-through bodies.

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03. Tardies are Hardies

Tardigrades can withstand temperatures so harsh that they would kill other organisms. Polar tardigrades have survived temperatures as low as minus 196 degrees Celsius (minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit), and research suggests that some could survive temperatures as low as minus 272 degrees Celsius (minus 458 degrees Fahrenheit), or only one degree above absolute zero. Heat-tolerant organisms, on the other hand, can withstand temperatures of up to 151 degrees Celsius (300 F).

04. No Animal Can Withstand Pressure Like Tardigrades

Tardigrades can withstand extreme pressures, up to six times those found on the ocean floor, as well as being boiled in alcohol.

In the tun state, some tardigrades can withstand pressures of up to 600 megapascals (MPa). That’s about 6,000 atmospheres, or 6,000 times the pressure in Earth’s atmosphere at sea level, and around six times the pressure in the planet’s deepest ocean trenches. Most multicellular life and bacteria would be killed by even half as much pressure, 300 MPa.

05. Only Animals Known to Survive in Outer-Space

In 2007, the FOTON-M3 mission launched two tardigrade species into low-Earth orbit, making them the first known animals to survive direct exposure to outer space. This 12-day trip contained both active and desiccated tardigrades, with some of each group being exposed to either space vacuum, radiation, or both. The absence of gravity had no effect on either species, and neither did exposure to the vacuum. During the voyage, some tardigrades even lay eggs. However, they were not invincible, and the combined effects of the vacuum and UV radiation took their toll.

Tardigrades also visited the International Space Station in 2011, with identical results demonstrating the space environment’s amazing tolerance. According to scientists, when the Beresheet probe fell on the moon in 2019, a capsule carrying tardigrades in a frozen condition may have survived the collision. The tardigrades’ fate is unknown, but even if they are still alive, they can’t resurrect from their tun state without liquid water.

06. Tardigrades are Radiation-Resistant

Tardigrades can withstand 1,000 times more radiation than humans, according to research.

They often withstand radiation damage in both active (hydrated) and tun (desiccated) states, which experts say is remarkable given that the indirect effects of ionizing radiation should be significantly larger in the presence of water. However, it appears that being in the tun state provides further protection.

07. Half Billion Years On Earth

According to National Geographic, they have survived five mass extinctions over the course of half a billion years. As a result, they are one of the few mammals to have survived all of the big extinction events.

When we consider what we know about their endurance for harsh temperatures, pressure, radiation, dehydration, and famine, they appear to be better prepared than we are to endure any forthcoming world disasters.

08. There May Be Tardigrades On The Moon

The Israeli lunar lander Beresheet crashed into the Moon’s surface in April 2019, therefore ending its mission. However, among the cargo was a colony of tardigrades, which scientists estimate are quite likely to have survived the impact (along with classic literature, human blood samples, and the entire Wikipedia).

09. Not So Tough Inside Our Stomachs

Luckily, Tardigrades are not capable of doing any harm to the humans. Tardigrades only eat other small micro-organisms. When we eat vegetables or plants, or drink water, there might be a chance that we eat a tardigrade.  You might think that they will get you sick—but no. That’s because they won’t infect your stomach. They would sadly disintegrate in your stomach acid…The stomach acid will react with the tardigrade’s compounds and dissolve it.  poor Tardigrades!  The resilience of tardigrades are sometimes highly over exaggerated.

10. Everything Excellent Has to Come to An End

It may seem odd at this point, but tardigrades can die — they aren’t invincible. Tardigrades live for 3 to 30 months, according to Animal Diversity Web, a database maintained by the University of Michigan.

Hope you enjoyed the amazing facts about these wonderful and tough creatures. Stay with FINELAX to enjoy the world’s most interesting news and facts about almost anything!

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