The tardigrade is an eight-legged micro animal, which is also known as water bears or moss piglets. These micro animals can be found everywhere like in moss, ferns, lichens, soil, beaches, dunes, and other damp places in the earth, it was even found in some of the driest areas, which also doesn’t have any rain record from decades.
Their size can be (0.3 to 0.5)mm, but the most abundant species can be of 1.2mm. Johann August Ephraim Goeze discovered this micro animal in 1773. He was a German pastor, who used to call him “Little water bear”. After three years it was named by the Italian biologist Lazzaro Spallanzani “Tardigrade”, which means “slow stepper”. Since 1778 scientists have found over 1,150 tardigrade species and every year researchers 20 new species of tardigrade.
The most exciting fact about this type of micro animals is that it has an unbelievable surviving power by which they can even survive after the end of the world. These micro animals can withstand extreme heat like in the desert, extreme cold like Arctic ice, intense pressure like at the deepest point in the ocean, and these micro animals can even survive without food and water for 30 years. These circumstances can quickly kill other life forms.
In 2007, the European space agency (ESA) took some dehydrated tardigrades to space on the Foton-M3 rocket for ten days. Tardigrades were taken into low Earth orbit and exposed for ten days. After ten days it was found out that the two-thirds of the tardigrades survived from the vacuum, the UV rays from the sun, and the radiation of space. So, that makes tardigrades the first known species that can survive in space.
The new research found out that the most robust creature of the planet, tardigrades have a weakness. Long-term exposure to high temperature can cause fewer chances for tardigrade to survive. Scientist discovered that it takes 48 hours at 98.8 degrees F (37.1 C) temperature to kill half of the active tardigrade, which are not adapted to heat and 99.7 degrees F (36.7 C) for those who are acclimated to heat.
The scientists have found that tardigrades turn to “tun” form for surviving and don’t age while in this state. In this they roll up into a little ball by tucking their legs under them, expel all the water from their bodies except for 3 per cent and surprisingly slow down their metabolism at 0.01 per cent of their average speed. But there are a lot of mysteries about tardigrades, which yet to be discovered. These mysteries of the tiny creature can teach us how to survive in weather like extreme cold or heat, radiation, even the vacuum of space and a lot more. To study them deeply the scientists need time, which we have as we know they are going to be around us for a long time.