Tardigrades, or water bears, are renowned as one of the most enduring creatures in the animal kingdom. These microscopic creatures can survive in the vacuum of space, inside volcanic craters or for kilometers on the bottom of an glacial lake in Antarctica. They have even returned to normal operation after being frozen for three decades.
But, according to a recent study in the journal Astrobiology, it turns out that water bears also have their limits of survival.
The researchers fired canisters filled with water bears from a high-firing gun, at various speeds to see if the creatures could survive the pressure exerted by each impact. . The results show that after being shot at a speed of less than 900 meters per second, or 3,240 km/h, the water bears can still respawn. But at a faster rate than that, according to Alejandra Traspas, a co-author of the study, they cannot survive.
“Being shot at more than 3,240 km/h means that the creature experiences a pressure of 1.14 gigapascals at impact – the equivalent of about 40,000 people standing on your back at once.” Traspas said.
Microscopic image of water bears, as found in a frozen moss sample in Antarctica.
Tardigrades are also known as water bears or moss pigs – as these 1.27 mm long creatures look like eight-legged potatoes with wrinkled faces and microscopic feet under a microscope.
The creature can withstand temperatures ranging from minus 458 degrees Fahrenheit (-272 degrees Celsius) to 304 degrees Fahrenheit (151 degrees Celsius) and pressures six times higher than the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean on Earth. land. They can also survive lethal radiation and heat by going into hibernation.
Once there, they do not need water and oxygen for a long time, and are in a suspended state known as cryptobiosis, in which their bodies dry up and their metabolism stops working. Placing a hibernating water bear in water will allow it to recover to full function in just a few hours.
So when an Israeli spacecraft carrying a swarm of hibernating water bears had trouble landing on the moon in April 2019 due to a computer glitch, scientists thought the animals would certainly live. omission.
But Traspas is not so sure.
“I’m very curious”, she shared. “I want to know if they’re alive.”
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