Science & Technology
Cool Creatures Episode 1: Water Bears
By Matteo Somma
Volume 2 Issue 1
October 8, 2021
Image provided by Forbes
Water Bears, or tardigrades, are microscopic water-dwelling animals with over 900 species. However, they all have something in common: they are indestructible. Water bears can survive 10 days (about 1.5 weeks) in outer space, major radiation, and extreme weather. They are complex creatures that many people do not know exist. Water bears, about as large as bacteria, are so complex for just a tiny living organism.
With four to six claws on each foot, water bears make quick work of climbing plants, their main food source. They can suck out the nutrients with their mouths. Although eating would give them important nutrients, if it came down to it, they would be able to survive without food for 30 years. Like bears, water bears can go into a state of inactivity. However, water bears can push all water, nutrients, and materials out of their bodies before entering that state in order to survive in dry environments. A common grizzly or black bear doesn’t do this. Rather, they stuff their bodies up with nutrients before they hibernate, a process called “cryptobiosis.”
Water bears have been known to survive up to 32 years frozen in ice, and they can be revived from it. They are also some of the most heat-tolerant animals and can survive temperatures up to 302 degrees Fahrenheit. Water bears can even survive in space, without any special equipment!
From temperatures that would easily kill humans, to severe textures* and pressure, this may lead one to ask the question: are tardigrades the toughest organism to ever exist? Though scientists are not 100% sure, they do have a rather good understanding of the complexity and toughness of these creatures.