Here’s a mind-blowing look at tardigrades, also known as waterbears, which are basically small, water-dwelling, segmented animals with eight legs. Yes, “tardigrades have also returned alive from studies in which they have been exposed to the vacuum of outer space for a few days in low Earth orbit.” Continue reading for a video, more pictures, and additional information.
Some 1,150 species of tardigrades have been described. Tardigrades occur throughout the world, from the Himalayas (above 6,000 metres (20,000 ft)), to the deep sea (below 4,000 metres (13,000 ft)) and from the polar regions to the equator. The most convenient place to find tardigrades is on lichens and mosses. Other environments are dunes, beaches, soil, and marine or freshwater sediments, where they may occur quite frequently (up to 25,000 animals per litre). Tardigrades often can be found by soaking a piece of moss in spring water.
Tardigrades are able to survive in extreme environments that would kill almost any other animal. Some can survive temperatures of close to absolute zero, or 0 Kelvins (−273 °C (−459 °F)), temperatures as high as 151 °C (304 °F), 1,000 times more radiation than other animals, and almost a decade without water.