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17 Things That Prove Tardigrades Are Basically Superheroes

Don't let their cute nickname fool you.

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1. This is a tardigrade.

Eye of Science/Science Photo Library

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".

Eye of Science/Science Photo Library

They typically live around water in damp moss or lichens, but can be found almost everywhere on Earth.

4. They can go into a state of suspended animation if they need to.

Eye of Science/Science Photo Library

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.

12. In Japanese hot springs.

StefanBaar

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.

14. They're the only animals that can survive in space.

NASA/AFP / Getty Images

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.

Sam Camp

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.

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