The tardigrade has been called the toughest animal on the planet, and when the next extinction event comes, they may outlast us.
This little animal is tiny, and yet it is virtually indestructible and may outlive us all. They’re called tardigrades, or water bears, and they are the toughest animals on the planet. Almost nothing can kill it: not temperatures of minus 272 degrees Celsius, not the vacuum of space, not even incredible heat.
A new study finds that they may be the last survivors of Earth, long after less adapable species like us succumb to whatever comes to claim life on Earth, be it an asteroid impact or contagious disease or something else. Scientists at the University of Oxford said in a statement that the water bear will survive until the sun itself dies, plunging the Earth forever into darkness.
And they’ve been around a lot longer than us too. While we humans have only been around for a million years or so, tardigrade microfossils have been found in sediment that is up to 520 million years old. That means they stuck around after the dinosaurs got wiped out.
“The world’s most indestructible species, the tardigrade, an eight-legged micro-animal, also known as the water bear, will survive until the Sun dies, according to a new Oxford University collaboration,” the university said in a statement. “The new study published in Scientific Reports, has shown that the tiny creatures, will survive the risk of extinction from all astrophysical catastrophes, and be around for at least 10 billion years – far longer than the human race. Although much attention has been given to the cataclysmic impact that an astrophysical event would have on human life, very little has been published around what it would take to kill the tardigrade, and wipe out life on this planet.”