Even the most catastrophic astrophysical events couldn’t wipe out the hardy tardigrade, researchers report.
Also known as water bears, tardigrades are tiny water-dwelling creatures famed for their resiliency. The eight-legged invertebrates can survive for up to 30 years without food or water and can endure wild temperature extremes, radiation exposure, and even the vacuum of space.
“Tardigrades are extremely hardy animals,” says Thomas Boothby, a tardigrade researcher at the University of North Carolina. “Scientists are still trying to work out how they survive these extremes.”
At a minimum, all of Earth’s oceans would have to boil away to completely wipe out all life on the planet. Although Boothby said tardigrades are only known to survive high temperatures when dry — and those species living in the sea would likely die before the waters boiled — tardigrades are still expected to avoid extinction until our sun swells up and becomes a red giant roughly six billion years from now, according to researchers who investigated the effects of various doomsday scenarios.