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Meet the tardigrade, the toughest animal on Earth – Thomas Boothby

Without water, a human can only
survive for about 100 hours. But there’s a creature so resilient
that it can go without it for decades. This one millimeter animal can survive
both the hottest and coldest environments on Earth, and can even withstand high levels
of radiation. This is the tardigrade, and it’s one of the toughest creatures
on Earth, even if it does look more like
a chubby, eight-legged gummy bear. Most organisms need water to survive. Water allows metabolism to occur, which is the process that drives
all the biochemical reactions that take place in cells. But creatures like the tardigrade,
also known as the water bear, get around this restriction
with a process called anhydrobiosis, from the Greek meaning
life without water. And however extraordinary,
tardigrades aren’t alone. Bacteria, single-celled organisms called archaea, plants, and even other animals
can all survive drying up. For many tardigrades, this requires that they go through
something called a tun state. They curl up into a ball, pulling their head and eight legs
inside their body and wait until water returns. It’s thought that as water
becomes scarce and tardigrades enter their tun state, they start synthesize special molecules, which fill the tardigrade’s cells
to replace lost water by forming a matrix. Components of the cells that are
sensitive to dryness, like DNA, proteins, and membranes, get trapped in this matrix. It’s thought that this keeps these
molecules locked in position to stop them from unfolding, breaking apart, or fusing together. Once the organism is rehydrated,
the matrix dissolves, leaving behind undamaged,
functional cells. Beyond dryness, tardigrades can also
tolerate other extreme stresses: being frozen, heated up past the boiling point
of water, high levels of radiation, and even the vacuum of outer space. This has led to some erroneous speculation that tardigrades
are extraterrestrial beings. While that’s fun to think about, scientific evidence places their
origin firmly on Earth where they’ve evolved over time. In fact, this earthly evolution
has given rise to over 1100 known species of tardigrades and there are probably many others
yet to be discovered. And because tardigrades are so hardy,
they exist just about everywhere. They live on every continent,
including Antarctica. And they’re in diverse biomes
including deserts, ice sheets, the sea, fresh water, rainforests, and the highest mountain peaks. But you can find tardigrades
in the most ordinary places, too, like moss or lichen found in yards, parks, and forests. All you need to find them is a little
patience and a microscope. Scientists are now to trying to find out
whether tardigrades use the tun state, their anti-drying technique, to survive other stresses. If we can understand how they,
and other creatures, stabilize their sensitive
biological molecules, perhaps we could apply this knowledge
to help us stabilize vaccines, or to develop stress-tolerant crops that
can cope with Earth’s changing climate. And by studying how tardigrades survive prolonged exposure
to the vacuum of outer space, scientists can generate clues about
the environmental limits of life and how to safeguard astronauts. In the process, tardigrades could even
help us answer a critical question: could life survive on planets much
less hospitable than our own?

100 thoughts on “Meet the tardigrade, the toughest animal on Earth – Thomas Boothby

  1. Viruses are also extremely resistant as they can lie dormant for years and be activated when they enter the proper host where they multiply.

  2. Team fortress meet the tartigrade

    If you were from were I was from e.g. bottom of freshwater pool you'd probably be dead

  3. The thumbnail image though, made me L.O.L seeing it.

    These things are friggin' miniature Godzilla's, SCP-682's and Cloverfield's!

  4. Tardigrades are very resistant but most of the time that doesn't even come in handy because they mainly eat each other and die that way

  5. Eh maybe has high stamina stat but tardigrades are a very low tier build cuz it literally doesnt fit the meta smh

  6. It can survive High Pressure
    Low pressure
    Without water
    Only water
    High radiation
    Low oxygen levels
    Me: steps on it

  7. Would they be as resilient if they were more human sized? Or would their bodies fail due to the change in size?

  8. 2:14 how the heck did they figure that out?! Did astronauts just dump a bunch of tardis into space??? That would be funny ?

  9. Seems as though instead of looking into cryogenic freezing for self-preservation, we should be pursuing this “matrix” they speak of.

  10. Tardigrades though can survive many extreme temperatures it does not help defend itself against many animals such as snails. It’s ability to withstand extreme temperatures is not even that useful in the day to day aspect.

  11. That poor little scrub. Love of his life is in the water.

    Maybe in the future, Tardigrades'll get smart enough to communicate.

  12. sure the tartigrate is super resilient… but it K I N D O F dies when snails are there… and also lots of other things… just saying…

  13. This is such a good video cause I had to do a school report on an animal or creature and I decided that tardigrades were really interesting and I found this video and another and this video was insanely informational and I got an A+

  14. Who else has seen these things in weird but true books and stuff like that?

    holy cow

    my life is a lie


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