Tardigrades known colloquially as water bears or moss piglets, are a phylum of water-dwelling eight-legged segmented micro-animals. They were first described by the German zoologist Johann August Ephraim Goeze in 1773, who called them little water bears.
Some can withstand the shock of boiling water and temperatures that near absolute zero. Others have survived in the crushing pressures of the deep ocean or go without water for decades. Tardigrades have survived in the vacuum of space. In 2014, Japanese researchers got a group of tardigrades that had been frozen for 30 years. What did they do after they woke up? They reproduced. Tardigrades are basically indestructible only when they enter a special state called cryptobiosis.
In harsh environments, the animals tuck in their legs and expel all moisture from their bodies. In this state, they're called tuns.
Different species of tardigrades have different adaptations for a wide variety of environmental threats. In hot conditions, they release heat-shock proteins, which prevent other proteins from warping. Some tardigrades can form bubbly cysts around their bodies. Like puffer jackets, the cysts allow them to survive in harsh climates.
These animals are very tough and are the toughest on earth.
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