Tardigrades: invincible water bears. Tardigrades, also called water bears or moss piglets are almost microscopic animals that can live almost anywhere. They are about as thick as a fingernail, but they can survive at the bottom of the ocean or in space. They can survive  in radiation, boiling liquids, pressure up to 6 times that of the deepest part of the ocean, out in space without any protection, temperatures as low as -300°F. These tiny animals can survive past human extinction. If an asteroid or a catastrophic event wipes out all of humanity and most other species, it will be very hard to kill all tardigrades. They can also survive up to 30 years without food or water. Not all life will be destroyed. However, while it was previously believed that they could survive in environments up to 300°F, according to livescience, new research finds that they can rapidly deteriorate in water above 100° and it can kill them within a day. Climate change can pose a threat to this once thought of as indestructible species. 

They can survive in such harsh conditions because they have a unique protein called Dsurp( Damage suppressor) that protects their DNA from radiation. They also protect themselves by going into a tun state. They squeeze all the water out of their bodies and contract themselves and enter a domat state and suspend their metabolism. However, they can not live this way forever. They can survive in water up to 300° F for up to an hour, but this will kill them after an hour. 

Climate change is affecting animals that seemed as if they could survive a human extinction. If humans become extinct due to climate change, it is likely that the indestructible tardigrades will not be able to survive either. While they do not need to drink water to survive, they need an aquatic climate to prevent dehydration. They live in water, but if average water temperatures exceed 80-90°F, tardigrades will not be able to survive.  Like many other species, it is up to humans to save their future. They can teach us how species are able to survive in such harsh climates.


Rebecca Jekogian