Interesting Facts About Tardigrades: They Can Survive In Boiling Water!

Tardigrade

Tardigrade

One of the most remarkable creatures known to science is the tardigrade. Everyday scientists are discovering more interesting facts about the tardigrades. Only now, they are beginning to understand what makes these little critters so incredible.
One of the most incredible things about water bears is the implications that their biology might benefit humanity in the future, making them one of science’s hottest topics.
Tardigrades (also known colloquially as water bears, or moss piglets) are water-dwelling, eight-legged, segmented micro-animals. A German zoologist Johann August Ephraim Goeze first discovered them in 1773. An Italian biologist Lazzaro Spallanzani gave the name Tardigrada (meaning “slow stepper”) three years later.
Tardigrades lives everywhere: from mountain tops to the deep sea and mud volcanoes; from tropical rain forests to the Antarctic. Tardigrades are one of the most resilient known animals, with individual species able to survive extreme conditions that would be rapidly fatal to nearly all other known life forms, such as exposure to extreme temperatures, extreme pressures (both high and low), dehydration, air deprivation, starvation, and radiation.
About 1,150 known species form the phylum Tardigrada, a part of the superphylum Ecdysozoa. The group includes fossils dating from 530 million years ago, in the Cambrian period.
Usually, tardigrades are about 0.5 mm (0.02 in) long when they’re fully-grown. They are short and plump, with four pairs of legs, each with four to eight claws also known as “disks”. Tardigrades are prevalent in mosses and lichens and feed on plant cells, algae, and small invertebrates. When collected, they may be viewed under a very low-power microscope, making them accessible to students and amateur scientists.
Most tardigrades eat plant matter and bacteria, although some prey on nematodes (tiny worms) or other creatures, foraging around with their signature-lumbering gait. Check out these interesting facts about the tardigrades.
1. Tardigrade babies are all born with a full range of adult cells. They grow not by cell division. Their cell simply expand in size.
2. Though miniscule in size, tardigrades are so incredibly powerful and capable of adapting to harsh environments that they have been alive since the Cambrian period over 500 million years ago.
This period is most known for being when the major animal groups appear in fossil record. It’s also the period where organisms – specifically animals – exploded in population and diversified in a relatively short period of time.
That means tardigrades have survived four mass extinctions, each of which reset the playing field for life on Earth: Cretaceous-tertiary (65 million years ago), Permian-triassic (250 million years ago), Devonian Extinction (365 million years ago), and Ordovician-silurian (440 million years ago).
3. They can come back to life after being frozen solid. Not only can tardigrades live and thrive in extremely cold environments, they can also be frozen solid for years at a time, and come back to live after being thawed out.
As part of an experiment, scientists froze three species of dehydrated tardigrades at various temperatures below zero for extended periods of time, and found that all species had “high survival rates” following 3,040 days (more than eight years) at -7.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and some could even be brought back to life after being frozen at 112 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 150 days.
4. Desiccation, or the state of being extremely dry, is typically devastating to living organisms, because base oxidation causes DNA to break down. The tardigrade, however, can survive being in a desiccated state for as long as 30 years – perhaps even as long as 120 years – by replacing water in its body with a protective sugar known as trehalose that acts as a sort-of glass covering over key proteins and membranes that would otherwise be destroyed.
When water is reintroduced, the tardigrade can recover in a relatively short time and even absorb the DNA of other desiccated organisms to help in their rejuvenation.
5. They can survive in boiling water. Tardigrades can truly survive it all. They have been found living and thriving in Japanese hot springs, which can reach temperatures well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Those hot springs must have been comfortable and balmy for tardigrades, considering they have been known to survive a few minutes at temperatures as hot as 304 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider that even limited contact with boiling water (212 degrees Fahrenheit) causes most cell membranes to “undergo gross structural changes.”

Leave a Reply, No Login Necessary.