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News Link • Biology, Botany and Zoology

Utterly unkillable tardigrades will live to see our Sun die

•, Michael Irving

Given our current trajectory, humans will probably be long gone by then anyway, but at least one lifeform will likely still be plodding along: the utterly unkillable tardigrade. According to a new study from Harvard and Oxford, it'll take nothing short of the death of the Sun to finally do the species in – which bodes well for the resilience of life as a whole.

Tardigrades look a little goofy, and they often go by the unassuming nicknames of water bears or moss piglets. But don't let that fool you: these microscopic creatures may just be the hardiest lifeforms on the planet. By entering a state of suspended animation, they've been known to withstand temperatures as low as -272º C (-457.6º F) and as high as 150º C (302º F), they can live without food, water and oxygen for extended periods of time, and are fine with both the vacuum of space and the crushing pressures at the bottom of the deepest parts of the ocean.

With this list of superpowers to their name, tardigrades are a good model for how tough life is overall. When scientists study large-scale threats to life on Earth, it's usually focused on our own survival, but in the grand scheme of things humans are a pretty fragile species. If, for example, a huge asteroid were to strike the planet, it might wipe out human civilization and a good chunk of other animals and plants on land and in the sea, but life would find a way to carry on without us.

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