1. This is a tardigrade.
They’re tiny animals that grow up to 1mm long and have eight legs. They were given their name by Italian biologist Lazzaro Spallanzani because it means “slow stepper”. These little guys are not going anywhere fast.
2. They’re also known as “moss piglets”.
They typically live around water in damp moss or lichens, but can be found almost everywhere on Earth.
3. They look like tiny manatees.
Tardigrade or manatee? It’s uncanny.
4. They can go into a state of suspended animation if they need to.
The most common way they do this is shriveling up as they reduce their water content to less than 1% what it normally is. They stop metabolism. This would kill most animals, but it only makes tardigrades stronger.
5. And hang around like that for a hundred years, before casually regenerating.
Tardigrades have been revived from dried moss kept in a museum for over 100 years.
6. Their eggs look like miniature alien spaceships.
7. Their feet look like this.
Not forgetting they have eight of them. How many claws?!
8. And up close their faces look like this.
“Are you my mummy?”
9. Some species are carnivorous.
10. They live all over Earth and have even been found 20,000 feet up a mountain in the Himalayas.
12. In Japanese hot springs.
A species of tardigrade was found in a hot spring near Nagasaki in 1937. They had six claws on each foot. Sadly, though, the site was later lost in an earthquake and the type specimen also disappeared. None of this kind of tardigrade has ever been found again, so their status as a species is dubious.
13. And 80m under the surface of a glacier in the Arctic.
And in Antarctica, too.
14. They’re the only animals that can survive in space.
In 2007 some tardigrades hitched a ride on a space shuttle and lived outside the spacecraft in the sub-zero temperature, oxygen-deprived vacuum of space for 10 days.
15. They can withstand six times as much pressure as there is at bottom of the Mariana trench.
The pressure at the bottom of the trench is around 1000 times atmospheric pressure, but tardigrades have survived 6000 times atmospheric pressure in an experiment. Pressure that high doesn’t actually exist anywhere on Earth.
16. They can withstand 1000 times the lethal human dose of X-ray radiation.
If their DNA does get damaged by radiation, they just repair it.