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The animal in question was a species of tardigrade, a microscopic creature sometimes referred to as a “water bear” that is perhaps the hardiest lifeform on Earth. There are over 1,000 known species, all of which have eight legs and measure between 0.5 and 1.2 mm in length, and they are found more or less everywhere.
As Brian Resnick wrote recently for Vox: “Pick up a piece of moss, and you’ll find tardigrades. In the soil: tardigrades. The ocean: You get it. They live on every continent, in every climate, and in every latitude. Their extreme resilience has allowed them to conquer the entire planet.”
This resilience comes from tardigrades’ ability, when conditions are especially harsh, to enter a state known cryptobiosis (or anabiosis). They achieve this by expelling 95 percent or more of their water, creating proteins and sugars to protect their cells, massively reducing or even suspending their metabolism, and tucking in their heads and legs to form a pill-shaped “tun.”
In tun form, tardigrades can withstand conditions from boiling water to absolute zero, and pressures six times greater than those found in the deepest part of the ocean. In 2007, the European Space Agency even launched a payload of tardigrades in tun form into space; retrieved 10 days later after the satellite returned to Earth, some of the tardigrades came back to life upon rehydration and even went on to reproduce, the first animals to survive the vacuum of space.
Tardigrades ( Water Bears ) live in moss and ferns. They are some of the most amazing animals on Earth. They can survive:
•Temperatures as low as -200 °C (-328 °F) and as high as 151 °C (304 °F);
•Freezing in a block of ice,
•Lack of oxygen,
•Lack of water for as long as decade(s).
•Levels of X-ray radiation 1000x the lethal human dose,
•Most noxious chemicals,
•Low pressure of a vacuum; like that of space,
•And high pressure (up to 6x the pressure of the deepest part of the ocean).
the European Space Agency even launched a payload of tardigrades in tun form into space; retrieved 10 days later after the satellite returned to Earth, some of the tardigrades came back to life upon rehydration and even went on to reproduce, the first animals to survive the vacuum of space.