In the animal kingdom, you have to be tough in order to survive. We may conjure up images of lions, sharks and other fantastic animals that are known for being tough and ferocious, but these animals can’t hold a candle to the water bear.
Water bear? That sounds fluffy and cute! Let’s see some facts:
- Real name – tardigrade
- We can only survive for around three days without water, these guys can survive for years and take hibernation to the next level, reducing themselves to a near death state and making themselves virtually indestructible, beat that bears and tortoises!
- Without much water in their cells, they can survive just above the temperature known as absolute zero (-272°C) for several minutes. Absolute zero is the temperature whereby nearly all (this is complicated – physics really isn’t my deal) molecules and therefore forms of life are unable to move in any way.
- Radiation? Not a problem! These guys can survive up to 5000 grays, whereas humans can only survive around 5.
- From one extreme temperature to another, you can try and boil a water bear, but they can survive in temperatures of up to 150°C.
- Even space can be conquered, the European Space Agency sent dried out samples of tardigrades into space for 10 days, life (or rather a lack of) in a vacuum was no problem for these fellas, though the solar radiation, which is known to corrupt and mutate DNA, did take its toll on several of the samples.
- Water bears are found all over the planet, from cold mountains to hot deserts and are able to wait for a drop of water to arrive for years, but their favourite habitats are mossy areas.
- Strange fact (as if the previous ones weren’t weird enough), the number of cells in a water bear, from life to death, never changes, the cells simply get bigger.
- They are capable of all this awesomeness at the size of half a millimetre.
So move over cockroaches and Deinoccocus radiodurans, there’s a new hard man in town.