All the world’s superheroes combined may be no match for this one microscopic organism. Tardigrades, also known as “water bears”, are the world’s most indestructible animals. Not only can they survive extreme conditions that don’t even exist on Earth, but they are also the first animal species to survive in space. And they didn’t just survive – there were healthy tardigrade newborns born in space.
The eight-legged invertebrates look like something out of an alien invasion film, except they’re approximately 0.5 to 1mm in size. Their fossils have been dated to the Cambrian period well over 500 million years ago, and some theories (video below) suggest that the species might just be from outer space.
Tardigrades are special in many ways. About 17.5 % of their body is made up of foreign DNA – from plants, virus, bacteria – and their bodies have the stupendous ability to generate antioxidants and repair their DNA. They can survive up to 30 years without food or water, under both volcanic temperatures and sub zero, even with exposure to x-rays and radiation, vacuum in space and asteroid impacts.